New Quality in the NATO-Russia Relationship
by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson
at the Diplomatic Academy
Ladies and Gentlemen,
During the Cold War, when European security was marked by tanks massed
along a static dividing line that cut the continent in half, the Soviet
Union and the members of NATO understood the nature of our relationship,
and the importance of that relationship for the world at large.
In NATO, we knew where our potential threat was coming from, and what
measures we needed to take to deter, and, if necessary, counter that threat.
For the past decade, it has been equally obvious that this Cold-War paradigm
no longer holds true, and that NATO and Russia should - indeed must -
be partners in overcoming the common threats that face us all in today's
We knew this in our minds, yet our hearts would not always allow us to
let go of the suspicions that had been born of four decades of mistrust,
both here in Russia and in the West. And these suspicions prevented us
from taking more than the most tentative steps toward a true partnership.
All of that changed on September 11. In the space of an hour, our world
The terrorist attacks on New York and Washington killed thousands of
Americans. But they also killed nearly 800 citizens of other NATO nations
- and more than 100 Russians.
If we had ever doubted that NATO and Russia share common security interests,
the terrorists left us no choice but to face this sobering reality.
These attacks oblige us to go beyond "business as usual".
They force us to think afresh about the conditions of our security today
And, above all, they oblige us to think afresh about the relationship
between NATO and Russia. Because one thing should be clear: if we want
to come up with any meaningful response to the terrorist menace, to the
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other new and emerging
threats, we need a solid NATO-Russia relationship.
To give you my view right at the outset, and with my usual bluntness:
the current state of NATO-Russia relations is not sufficient to deal seriously
with the new security challenges that confront us today and tomorrow.
We need something more. And we need it fast.
It would be an exaggeration to speak of the last decade as a lost opportunity.
We have achieved a lot.
But let us be honest: our relationship has never broken entirely free
of the mistrust of the Cold War.
We have made some progress. In 1997, we signed the Founding Act on Mutual
Relations and created the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council.
The Founding Act commits NATO and Russia to "build together a lasting
and inclusive peace in the Euro-Atlantic area on the principles of democracy
and cooperative security." It notes our intention "to develop,
on the basis of common interest, reciprocity and transparency a strong,
stable and enduring partnership."
These are powerful words indeed, which point the direction we should
be headed. But how far have we travelled down that road?
Not far enough. Our partnership has remained a nervous one.
The foundation for our new relationship was laid in the Founding Act,
but the process of building upon that foundation proved to be problematic.
Cooperation seemed to go hand in hand with competition. Fundamental differences
in perception persisted, above all regarding the future of the European
security architecture, and the respective roles NATO and Russia should
play within this architecture.
The 1999 Kosovo crisis exposed these fundamental differences in perception.
NATO's conviction that murderous ethnic cleansing in Kosovo had to be
stopped by all necessary means clashed fundamentally with Russia's concerns
about sovereignty and territorial integrity, and, above all, with old
zero-sum notions of security and "spheres of influence."
Not much room appeared to be left for a middle ground.
But while Kosovo demonstrated our differences, it also demonstrated
how much we need each other.
Yes, Russia could walk out of the NATO-Russia dialogue, but only at the
risk of being marginalised. Yes, NATO could run the operation on its own,
but it needed Russian support for any lasting political settlement in
the Balkans, as demonstrated by the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution
1244. In the Balkans, then, NATO and Russia simply could not achieve their
goals without co-operating.
We learned the hard way that we have become, to a large extent, dependent
upon one another. And we realised that in today's world, no country, not
even the most powerful one, can achieve true security in isolation.
But many in Russia and in the West failed to internalise this lesson.
Bosnia and Kosovo are very far from Brussels, and even farther from Moscow.
The cooperation between NATO and Russia in resolving the crises has not
been widely appreciated in our home countries.
Because of this, the views of some of our politicians and publics tended
to be subject to "old thinking". In Russia and in the West some
used the Balkan crises to "justify their logic" -- to simply
reinforce their own prejudices about each other's intentions.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, relying on these old concepts
is no longer just wrong, but outright dangerous.
The challenges in Kosovo and Bosnia may have seemed far away, but the
challenge of global terrorism is not. It threatens us right here at our
Far more than Kosovo or Bosnia, the attacks of September 11 brought home
the lessons of our interdependence.
They brought home our vulnerability to a new kind of threat. They brought
home the futility of security concepts that focus on amassing tanks at
They brought home the need for a new approach to security: co-operation
at all levels, across the full spectrum of security issues.
Above all, they brought home the need for a real breakthrough in NATO-Russia
I believe that the chances for such a real breakthrough in our relations
have never been better. For all the ups and downs of our relationship,
the first ten years have at least dismantled some of the obstacles that
stood in the way of a new stage in our relationship and demonstrated that,
where we find the political will, we can work together successfully.
Now we must take the next step forward, and find ways in which we can
move beyond consultations and fulfil the Founding Act's promise of joint
decisions and joint actions in some areas.
Presidents Putin and Bush endorsed this idea, when they noted that "the
members of NATO and Russia are increasingly allied against terrorism,
regional instability and other contemporary threats, and that the NATO-Russia
relationship should therefore evolve accordingly."
This will not be an easy process, either for NATO or for Russia. But
it must be done.
Instead of asking: "How much co-operation can we tolerate?"
we should be asking: "How can we achieve the full promise of partnership?"
I believe we can already begin to answer that question.
First, I can say with confidence that we will prevail in our common
struggle against global terrorism. In the mountains of southern Afghanistan
and the streets of Kandahar, Osama Bin Laden and his Taliban protectors
are on the run.
Just as importantly, around the world, from Chechnya to Somalia, from
the Philippines to the Balkans, other terrorists and would-be terrorists
have been put on notice that no political cause or religious belief can
justify the murder of innocent civilians.
We will prevail because we will continue to stand together, as we have
since September 11. We are united in political will, and we are united
in developing practical cooperation to operationalise that unity.
But terrorism is not the only area in which we can or should work together.
Nor is it the only threat that endangers all of our peoples.
We must deepen our cooperation in protecting our populations from chemical,
biological and nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles that can be
used to deliver them.
This cooperation must include measures to firmly prevent the proliferation
of these deadly weapons and materials, as well as examining ways where
we might move forward together, as Russia has suggested, in developing
missile defences to protect us from weapons that have already fallen into
the wrong hands.
We must also move forward with a meaningful dialogue on military reform,
to learn from each other's experience and have confidence that all of
us have the right capabilities to face together the threats of today and
We must recognise also that not all "defence" against the threats
of the modern world can or should be military in nature.
We have already started a very fruitful dialogue with Russia on how we
can cooperate in civil emergency planning, including in dealing with the
after-effects of terrorist acts and natural disasters.
Despite our past policy differences in the Balkans, we have accumulated
an impressive record of field-level co-operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina,
and in Kosovo where NATO and Russian forces have served side-by-side within
a unified command structure.
We have also worked together politically to ensure that the horrors of
previous Balkan wars are not repeated in FYROM. We must build upon this
record, and build mutual trust not only among NATO and Russia politicians,
but among our men and women in uniform. As we look past the conflict in
Afghanistan, toward intensified humanitarian relief efforts in that long-suffering
country, this offers fertile ground for practical co-operation between
NATO and Russia.
We must also begin to look at NATO enlargement in the context of our
new vision of security.
Yes, NATO will issue invitations to some new members next year. But this
needs to be seen in the broader context of the integration processes underway
in the Euro-Atlantic community and beyond. These processes encompass much
more than the enlargement of NATO.
They also encompass the accession of new member states to the European
Union and the World Trade Organisation, to name just two. All of these
processes will serve Russia's national interests in the long term.
Why? Because they will contribute to the growing togetherness of Europe.
And because they will help to spread stability and reconcile nations
with each other.
Two years ago, Poland joined NATO. Just last month, President Putin
told President Kwasniewski that the relationship between Russia and Poland
This shows, better than any NATO declaration, why enlargement will not
translate into a net loss for Russia.
A state that joins a cooperative NATO will itself become part of this
cooperative momentum. And Russia will benefit as a result - the notion
of a "new dividing line" is a myth.
We are not a threat to you, and we do not consider you to be a threat
The enlargement of both NATO and the EU should proceed hand in hand with
the development of closer relations between NATO and Russia, the EU and
Russia, and, yes, NATO and the EU. As President Putin said last week in
Texas, if we develop a true partnership between NATO and Russia, our past
differences over enlargement" will cease to be a relevant issue."
Does this new spirit in NATO-Russia relations mean that we will from
now on agree on each and every question?
That would be clearly be unrealistic.
We will continue to have differences. But we must discuss them openly
and try to understand each other, rather than automatically assuming the
worst about each other's motives.
For our part, we now understand that Russia's warnings about the dangers
of terrorism have not just been motivated by the need to dispel Western
criticism of the Chechnya campaign.
We may disagree on the means Russia has chosen in the handling of that
conflict - and here, I must tell you that NATO Allies remain concerned
about their effects on innocent civilians.
But we have certainly come to see the scourge of terrorism in Chechnya
with different eyes.
Russia's long-term political goal - a peaceful, stable Chechen Republic
within the Russian Federation, where citizens enjoy all the protections
of the Russian Constitution and which does not serve as a base for international
terrorism - is one we support and share.
This, to my mind, is the kind of partnership that would serve NATO and
Russia -- indeed the entire Euro-Atlantic community -- very well. In any
case, it should be the kind of relationship we should aim for when we
make decisions now.
When I met with President Putin in Brussels six weeks ago, he shared
my sense of frustration with the slow progress in our relationship. He
wants to work more closely with the Alliance, and we welcome this.
I am keen to build on this momentum and I have already presented him
with a package of initial proposals for more detailed and substantive
co-operation. These, of course, include several initiatives designed to
deepen our co-operation in combating terrorism.
NATO and Russian experts are currently working out the details of these
and other ideas. I also proposed an intensified program of joint exercises,
designed to enhance our interoperability in such areas as air transport
and air-to-air refuelling.
And President Putin and I agreed to establish an informal "think
tank" to exchange views on other ways to enhance our co-operation
in combating terrorism and on how to take forward the NATO-Russia relationship.
These steps will set our relationship on a faster track. They will bring
us closer to the mature NATO-Russia relationship that we want -- and need.
But let us be clear: This new relationship will not come about by default.
It requires hard work.
Above all, it means that the new spirit of cooperation that has emerged
between us after September 11 must be made permanent. The coalition against
fascism 60 years ago did not outlast its victory.
Nor have we achieved the full promise of co-operation that emerged with
the democratic revolutions of 1989-1991. We must make full use of the
current chance for a new relationship, spurred by our coalition against
Ladies and Gentlemen,
According to some observers, we have entered a new age -- an "age
of uncertainty". If this is true, don't we need certainties? Don't
we need reliable partners we can count on? Strong partners, and reliable
friends? Would it not be reassuring to know that the NATO-Russia partnership
is among the things that are certain, among the things we can always count
That is why our current struggle against the terrorist menace must only
be the beginning of something that is long overdue: a permanent qualitative
change in our relationship.