Updated: 05-Dec-2001 NATO Speeches

At the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung/Friend
of Europe Media Dinner-
4 Dec. 2001

"The TransAtlantic Community of Values facing New Challenges"

Statement by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I must say that I am always a little cautious of speaking just before meals, because as Samuel Johnson put it, "a man seldom thinks with more earnestness of anything than he does of his dinner". With that warning in mind, I promise to be brief, so that we can continue our discussion with clearer minds over dinner.

Let me begin by thanking the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and the Friends of Europe for hosting this Roundtable, and EADS for supporting it. They have chosen an important and thoroughly topical issue for us to address: how do we, as a community of people and nations, continue to ensure our safety and security against new, and very threatening, security challenges?

This general, and global re-examination of security was triggered by the events of September 11th. And it would be hard to over-state how much of an impact these attacks have had.

It has been almost three months now since that infamous day. In our fast-moving societies, three months can seem an eternity. Most seemingly important events are forgotten just days later. In the flood of information we get on a daily basis, yesterday's news very quickly becomes ancient history.

But September 11th is different. Like the Gulf War, it was an event the whole world watched live. Like Kennedy's assassination, a series of images were burned indelibly into our memories, never to be lost. And like the fall of the Berlin Wall, the attacks of September 11th have changed our world, in fundamental ways.

To my mind, September 11th brought a definitive end to the post-Cold War world. It did so by exposing as false and outdated some of the myths and misconceptions that had endured, like ghosts, from an earlier era. It has forced us to look long and hard at the challenges we really face. And it no longer allows us the luxury of illusion, or self-delusion.

Five illusions, in particular, have been exposed as false. First, and perhaps foremost, the illusion that somehow, with the Cold War over, we could take our safety and security for granted. We cannot. The threat of total war in Europe, or nuclear annihilation in a Soviet strike -- yes, those threats are history, and everyone understands that. The decisions by Presidents Bush and Putin to slash their nuclear arsenals by two-thirds is a clear illustration.

But now we must face the fact that there are new threats -- and that they can bite. Terrorism is the most obvious, but it is not alone. 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. Cyber-crime is one example. So is sending anthrax through the mail.

These are the challenges we have to face now. And we can no longer have any illusions about our security. It matters. And it is still very much under threat.

The second illusion shattered on September 11th is the myth about transatlantic estrangement. Until that day, 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 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. We should put to rest once and for all the myth of transatlantic drift.

The practical support provided by NATO to the US-led campaign should also put to rest a third illusion that has popped up repeatedly over the past decade: 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 into Central Asia to help solidify their support as well.

And in just two days, Allied Foreign Ministers will meet here in Brussels to 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.

Another important step in NATO's adaptation to the new security environment will take place at the Foreign Ministers' meetings. NATO and Russia will put their 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 will put an end to another old myth that has survived too long -- that Russia and the West will never be able to cooperate as trusting friends. We can.

Russia's cooperation with the West since September 11th has been unstinting and courageous. It shows that our cooperation can be more than reluctant and ad-hoc. If we face the challenges of today and tomorrow, rather than battle the ghosts of the past, we can be strong, solid partners.

The final myth I believe has been destroyed, in the events of the past few months, is the illusion that we can have security on the cheap. In the battle against terrorism, we will need to make improvements in a whole range of areas: military capability; intelligence gathering; internal policing; border control; health services; and many more. And that is only to take on terrorism. There are many other challenges out there, all of which must be met. To meet them effectively, we will have to provide enough resources.

Both NATO and the European Union have made good starts, across a whole range of measures. And last week's capabilities conference helped move the European defence project a little closer to reality. But Europe and NATO must keep up the momentum, and indeed speed it up. 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.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I promised to be brief -- which for a Scot to a German Foundation, 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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