Updated: 05-Dec-2001 NATO Speeches

At theBelgian
3 Dec. 2001


by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson

Votre Altesse Royale,
Monsieur le Président,
Mesdames et Messieurs,

Pour commencer, je voudrais vous dire combien je suis heureux d'être parmi vous ce soir. Ici, je me sens vraiment chez moi. Cette ville, et ce pays, ont accueilli l'OTAN depuis déjà plusieurs décennies. Et bien sûr, l'Association Atlantique Belge a toujours été un soutien précieux, et un ami, pour l'Alliance. Rien d'étonnant à ce que le Président actuel de l'Association, l'Ambassadeur Thuysbaart, ait été le représentant Permanent de la Belgique auprès de l'OTAN. Pour toutes ces raisons, je suis enchanté d'avoir l'occasion de vous rencontrer, afin de discuter des questions de sécurité actuelles.

Let me now revert to English. We are having this discussion at an extraordinary and challenging time. When NATO's Foreign Ministers gather at the Headquarters in just a few days, they will confront a formidable agenda. That agenda was full before 11 September: three Balkan operations, Enlargement, European Security, defence capabilities and so on. Since then, combatting terrorism has become a primary focus for everyone. And our relationship with Russia has taken on an entirely new quality.

How to respond? There will be no easy answers. But even in this time of great change, the fundamentals are clear. And these fundamentals will guide the Alliance as it evolves to face the challenges of today and the future.

The first fundamental is almost a truism: security has changed. I would go so far as to say that, after September 11th, the post-Cold War period is over.

The threat of total war in Europe is history. We all know it. The decisions by Presidents Bush and Putin to slash their nuclear arsenals by two-thirds is a clear illustration.

Now we must face the fact that there are new threats -- and that they can have horrific consequences. Terrorism is the most obvious. On September 11th, thousands of innocent people lost their lives. Yes, the majority were American. But over 80 countries lost their own, as well -- and it was only luck that even more innocents were not butchered that day.

And the terrorists did more than just kill. They have also struck fear in the hearts of our citizens. Where just a few weeks ago, the average person was talking about the weather or yesterday's match, today they are talking about Afghanistan and anthrax. They are afraid to fly. They are afraid to open their mail.

So let us be clear. This was an attack on the lives of our citizens. On the health of our economies. On our freedom to travel. On our freedom to communicate. On our values. On our way of life.

We know what we have to do. We have to raise the threshold against terrorism higher than it has ever been. To punish terrorists for their acts, immediately and directly. To choke off their money. To leave them no safe refuge. To exact a price from any state that harbours them. And in the end, to drive terrorism to the same fate as slavery or piracy: an act condemned by the entire world, and punished wherever it attempts to resurface.

That is exactly what is happening. In a calm, inclusive and measured way, the United States has brought together countries across continents and religions. All working together, in different ways, towards a common purpose: to bring to justice those responsible for those attacks. To prevent further attacks. And to ensure that Afghanistan is never again a place where terrorists find safe haven.

These goals are being met. On the ground in Afghanistan, Al-Qaida and its protectors, the Taliban, are being defeated. At the same time, thousands of tons of humanitarian assistance are being delivered to the innocent Afghan civilians that had suffered for so many years under Taliban cruelty and mismanagement. And in Bonn, the first steps have been taken to set up a broad-based, multiethnic government for Afghanistan that should lead to a long-term, sustainable peace in that country.

But terrorism is not the only threat we face. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is continuing. Ethnic wars, such as those in the Balkans, create areas of instability that attract organised crime, and become transit areas for drugs that end up in our streets. Globalization makes us increasingly vulnerable to what the military calls "asymmetrical attack" -- cheap, easy and destructive attacks using our own open systems against us. Hijacking a plane is one example. So is sending anthrax through the mail.

Terrorism, regional wars, weapons of mass destruction, cyber-attacks: after September 11th, we all understand that these are the threats we face today. And it is with this understanding that we will discuss, and implement, NATO's ongoing adaptation.

Our discussions will also be guided by another fundamental lesson of September 11th: that the transatlantic link is still as strong as ever. Until then, some pundits were sure that Europe and North America were preparing divorce papers. Differences over the death penalty, or genetically modified foods, or gun control seemed to some to be proof that our values were increasingly pulling us apart.

Of course, just the opposite has proven true. Europe and North America are not divided by values -- they are, as this gathering suggests, a community of values. A community united by a fundamental belief in freedom, democracy, fundamental human rights. And united in a determination to support and defend those values -- together.

The clearest example of this was NATO's decision to invoke Article V of its Charter, which states that an attack on one is to be considered an attack against all. This decision not only demonstrated the solidarity of all Allies with the US, it also provided a framework for NATO's practical support to the US-led operations. Which should put to rest once and for all the myth of transatlantic drift.

The practical support provided by NATO to the US-led campaign has also reinforced the third fundamental principle that will guide our discussions in the upcoming meeting: that as we enter the 21st Century, NATO is still essential to meeting the security challenges of the Euro-Atlantic area.

Over and over, during the past decade, so-called experts have proclaimed NATO's impending doom. That NATO has lost its purpose, and is becoming irrelevant.

We first heard that at the end of the Cold War. After all, without the Soviet Union around, what was NATO to do? Well, a few years later, NATO was making, and then keeping the peace in the Balkans. Assisting democratic reform in new democracies. Building a new relationship with Russia based on cooperation and dialogue. And maintaining the transatlantic security relationship precisely by updating it for modern challenges.

In the space of a few years, the Alliance proved itself able to adapt to tackle new challenges in ways that build on NATO's comparative advantages: transatlantic political cohesion, and effective, integrated military capability. And these same strengths are the platform as NATO adapts itself, once again, to meet this new challenge of terrorism.

NATO forces are helping to protect US airspace, for the first time in history. NATO practices and procedures are underpinning Allied support for the US-led operation. NATO cohesion is providing crucial political support. The Alliance is using its strong relations with non-NATO countries across Europe and Central Asia to help solidify their support as well. And at their forthcoming meeting, Allied Foreign Ministers will continue to move forward NATO's adaptation to this new threat. All of which makes it clear that NATO is, and will remain, as relevant to meeting this challenge as it is to all the others on its broad agenda.

One very important step in NATO's adaptation to the new security environment will take place at the Foreign Ministers' meetings. NATO and Russia will put our relationship on a new footing. We will take steps to move to a new level of cooperation, which gives Russia a greater voice on issues where we already cooperate - or where we should.

This historic transition illustrates a fourth principle that will guide Euro-Atlantic security into the future: that cooperation between Russia and the West can be more than reluctant and ad-hoc. We can be deep and trusting Partners.

Since September 11th, Russia has offered unstinting and courageous cooperation with the West. This is not a Machiavellian plot to undermine the West. It is an illustration that we are moving beyond the reflexive suspicion and distrust that have held us back until now.

It takes vision and courage to take advantage of this kind of change -- and we will have both. At our meetings at the end of this week, we will lay the groundwork for a qualitatively new relationship between Russia and NATO, on a wider range of issues.

That relationship will strenghten NATO, not undermine it. We will not throw away our cohesion or effectiveness at 19. There will be no vetos. Instead it will add the ability to operate at 20 with Russia when it is in both our interests to do so.

The fifth principle which must, I believe, guide our discussions is the realisation that we cannot have security on the cheap. 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 hundreds upon hundreds of billions of dollars ensuring the safety of ourselves and our 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 1999 Summit in Washington, NATO's Heads of State and Government said much the same thing. They directed that the Alliance take steps to make our forces more mobile, more effective in the field, and better able to stay in the field for extended periods of time. I am determined to hold the NATO Allies to this commitment.

We must all take the steps now to maintain, enhance or develop the capacities we need to preserve our safety and security well into the future. I am referring not only to military capabilities, but also to a wide spectrum of capacities which could prove essential to face effectively the new challenges to our societies. Better early warning. More deployable civilian police. More effective monitoring of illegal monetary transactions, and more effective ways to stop them. Better homeland defence. The list goes on and on -- but for any of these essential capacities actually to be developed, they simply must have funding.

Now, I know that Government budgets are being squeezed everywhere. Let me be very clear: I am certainly not suggesting that other vital programs should be cut in a panicked and excessive rush to fund security. That would be very much the wrong reaction. But just as before September 11th, preserving the security of our societies requires the right amount of spending -- spent in the right way, as part of the normal, balanced activity of any responsible government.

And 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. Because -- and I must put it bluntly -- September 11th proves that nice words and good intentions aren't enough. Scrimping on security is no savings at all. We cannot save dollars, and then pay in lives. Our transatlantic toolbox must have the full spectrum of tools we might need to preserve our security and safety in this new age of uncertainty.

And that includes not only terrorism, but the full range of challenges we face in building peace and security in the 21st century. We must be able to handle our peacekeeping missions in the Balkans. We must continue to build stronger relations with all the countries in Europe, and help them with their evolution into modern, democratic and prosperous states. And we must continue NATO's enlargement, to ensure security is increasingly guaranteed for the new democracies.

This is a daunting agenda, on top of the immediate requirements of the fight against terrorism. But they are essential contributions to our security. And if sufficient funds are devoted to these efforts, we will continue to ensure transatlantic security with the same success we have had for NATO's first five decades.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I promised to be brief -- which for a Scot, is a real challenge! But I will keep to my word and conclude. To my mind, we face a great challenge -- to ensure security in a radically changing world. But we also have a great opportunity. To deepen the transatlantic ties that already bind us so closely and so fruitfully together. To build new relationships with old adversaries, to the mutual benefit of all concerned. And to recommit ourselves to making the investments necessary to ensure our continuing security. I believe that we can do all these things -- and in so doing, continue to ensure the safety of future generations.

Thank you.

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