Updated: 19-Dec-2001 NATO Speeches

19 Dec. 2001

Opening Remarks

by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson
at the Meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission

Welcome to this meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission in Defence Ministers' Session. I am especially pleased to welcome a number of Ministers who are attending their first NUC meeting, in particular of course Minister Shkidchenko. He is well known to many of us, having served his country as Chief of Defence. I hope that you feel yourself among friends.

NATO and Ukraine can look back at another year during which we took our Distinctive Partnership forward. NATO also fully apreciates the support offered by Ukraine in the aftermath of the terrible terrorist attacks against the United States on 11 September, 2001. Our joint work on Defence Reform has enjoyed marked success so far.

Defence Reform and dealing with the consequences of defence reform are among the toughest responsibilities faced by a state, not least because they require a comprehensive approach, involving many parts of our governments.

Defence and security forces that are democratically controlled and fully accountable are part and parcel of a mature democracy. Reform is not merely a cost saving exercise. We face new challenges - regional conflicts, humanitarian emergencies, peacekeeping operations and terrorist attacks fill our daily news.

These problems require different forces than we had in the past. Today we need forces that are smaller and more mobile, well equipped and well trained, able to deploy quickly to trouble spots, and with the logistical support which can be sustained in theatre for extended periods of time. The Polish-Ukrainian Battalion, operating in KFOR, is a good example of this type of force.

Every nation at this table is faced with the same challenge - how to adjust national forces to meet the challenges of the 21st Century, and how to do this within tight budgets?

In reviewing the documents for our meeting today, I was struck by the progress we have made together and by the ambitious programme before us. I hope that Ministers will be able to take part in the Aspen Institute conference on NATO-Ukraine planned for 3 and 4 March in Berlin.

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