by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A week ago, the Wall Street Journal argued that if security
were a marketable product, it would be hard to find a better
brand name than NATO.
Dr. Teltschik, the same applies to this conference. Munich
is a leading trade name in its field, a venue where the most
serious security issues are debated openly and honestly, among
experts and key decision makers.
Today, the most serious security issue facing us all is the
campaign against terrorism. At ground zero and elsewhere in
New York earlier this week I was told repeatedly that NATO´s
response to September 11 had reaffirmed the importance of the
But we have all seen in the past month that a succession of
commentators have started to argue that NATO has been marginalised
and that its future is in doubt.
This is not the first time that predictions of this kind have
been made. When the Berlin Wall fell, some critics suggested
that NATO had completed its mission, and could pack it in. Then,
after the success of the Gulf War coalition, they suggested
that all future operations would be exactly like Desert Storm
- and that, as a result, NATO wasn't needed to meet modern challenges.
The critics were wrong. During the 1990s, NATO's members transformed
the Alliance to deal with instability in Southeast Europe, to
provide security across the European continent and to spearhead
the modernisation of their armed forces.
NATO prospered, expanded and even won its first military campaign,
in Kosovo. Kosovo was, by any standards, a huge success. We
won in 78 days, with minimum casualties and none on the Allies
side, without a legacy of bitterness or terror, and with all
our objectives met.
Every time I visit Kosovo, I meet people who would not be
alive today but for NATO's planes and soldiers. You don't hear
them bleating about "war by committee."
Today, NATO is keeping the peace in trouble spots in Southeast
Europe; and cooperating more and more deeply with Russia, Ukraine,
and 25 other countries in Europe and Central Asia. And as a
sign of NATO's popularity, nine countries are queuing to join
Make no mistake, in 2002, there is simply no credible alternative
forum to NATO for transatlantic security coordination. Nor is
there any credible alternative for ensuring the military and
political interoperability on which all coalition operations
There is no other means than NATO to ensure that European
Defence strengthens our collective capacity. And there is no
other organisation which can provide stability and security
in the Euro-Atlantic area and prevent the danger of re-nationalising
defence in Europe.
But September 11th changed the world. As a result, some critics
now argue that NATO has no role in dealing with the new threats
that confront us all. Or that it could have a role but lacks
the political will to seize it.
I totally disagree. The critics were wrong after the Cold
War and the Gulf War. They are wrong now. NATO is not only a
part of the campaign against terrorism - it is an essential
Start with the declaration of Article 5. We must not let revisionists
cast doubt on the fundamental importance of that decision. By
declaring that this attack was an attack against them all, NATO's
19 members triggered the same collective defence arrangements
for the United States which Europeans had counted on during
the Cold War.
This decision demonstrated that the mutual trust and commitments
on which the Alliance has been based for 52 years remain tangible,
real and reciprocal.
But Article 5 is not just a statement of solidarity. It is
also a commitment by Allies to offer practical support and it
was a unique signal to the world of terrorism that they had
crossed a serious threshold with their attack.
At the outset of the crisis, the United States was quickly
granted a range of specific measures, such as enhanced intelligence
support; blanket overflight rights, access to ports and airfields,
and so on.
Most significant, of course, was the move of seven NATO AWACS
aircraft across the Atlantic to patrol US airspace.
As President Bush said in his joint press conference with
me in the White House Rose Garden on 10 October: "This
has never happened before, that NATO has come to help defend
our country, but it happened in this time of need and for that
we are grateful". A high point indeed in the transatlantic
It is true that NATO did not lead the campaign against the Taliban
and Al-Qaida because, as in the case of Desert Storm in the
Gulf, a larger, more diverse coalition was needed for that phase
of the attack on terrorism. But NATO's political, military and
logistic support has nonetheless been crucial.
Furthermore, European members are leading the international
stability force now deploying to Kabul. As in Desert Storm,
their ability to work effectively with each other and with the
United States is the result of decades of cooperation in NATO.
It is a striking fact that because of NATO's emphasis on multinational
interoperability, British tanker aircraft over Afghanistan can
refuel US Navy fighters, but US Air Force tankers cannot. Without
a core of practical interoperability, we would rapidly be forced
to rely on coalitions of the willing but incapable.
And NATO's role stretches even further - because it has made
a vital contribution to building the coalition that the United
States needs to win this campaign. For years, NATO has been
building partnerships and trust with Central Asian partners.
Now these same countries are providing airspace and bases
without which effective operations in Afghanistan would have
been impossible. That would not have been feasible without those
years of cooperation with NATO.
Afghanistan reinforces the fact that no modern military operation
can be undertaken by a single country. Even superpowers need
allies and coalitions to provide bases, fuel, airspace and forces.
And they need mechanims and experience to integrate these forces
into a single coherent military capability.
NATO and its partners in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council
are the world's largest permanent coalition. And NATO is preeminently
the world's most effective military organisation. It will not
be in the lead in every crisis. But it has a vital role - in
my view the vital role - to play in multinational crisis prevention
and crisis management.
Nonetheless, to maintain that role, NATO must continue to
evolve. The context for our security is changing, and everybody
in the security business has to adapt. What people do not seem
to know is that we are already on the job.
We have a clear mission, set down at our autumn ministerial
meetings, to make November´s Prague summit a focus for
adaptation and change.
Thus the Alliance is becoming the primary means for developing
the role of armed forces to defeat the terrorist threat. NATO
forces have already destroyed dangerous Al-Qaida cells in the
Now our nations are examining ways to improve our forces' abilities
to protect themselves against the use of weapons of mass destruction.
And we are looking at using the military's unique skills and
capabilities more effectively to protect our populations, and
to assist in civil emergencies.
We are engaging non-NATO countries, including Russia, in the
process. Tomorrow, I will host, along with Russian Defence Minister
Sergey Ivanov, a major meeting to jointly look at how our militaries
can do more, and do more together.
This is an important symbol of NATO's deepening relationship
with Russia, built on more issues than terrorism. We intend
to work together as equal partners, in new ways which benefit
both sides but still safeguard NATO's cohesion and the autonomy
of action of both sides. If we succeed, and I am confident that
we will, the strategic picture will be transformed as fundamentally
for the good as it was for evil on September 11th.
We are also redoubling our efforts to complete the modernisation
of European and Canadian forces. They must be able to take on
a greater share of the burden of maintaining our common security
- including dealing quickly with terrorism and weapons of mass
The United States must have partners who can contribute their
fair share to operations which benefit the entire Euro-Atlantic
community. This is the best possible way to build on the emotional
and practical strengthening of transatlantic bonds caused by
the terrible attacks last year.
But the picture on burden sharing, is frankly a very mixed
one. In practical terms, America's Allies are pulling their
weight. In the Balkans, for example, more than 85% of the peacekeeping
troops are European. The European Union is paying the lion's
share in reconstruction and development. Javier Solana and I
have a polished political EU-NATO double-act to keep the peace
in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia . And in the coming
months, we will see increasing efforts by the Europeans to reduce
the burden on American shoulders in some of these Balkan operations.
Unfortunately, the longer term picture is less optimistic.
For all the political energy expended in NATO and in the EU,
the truth is that Europe remains militarily undersized.
Orders of battle and headquarters wiring diagrams read impressively.
Overall numbers of soldiers, tanks and aircraft give a similar
impression of military power. But the reality is that we are
hard pressed to maintain those 50,000 European troops in the
Balkans. And hardly any European country can deploy useable
and effecitive forces in significant numbers outside their borders,
and sustain them for months or even years as we all need to
For all Europe´s rhetoric, and an annual investment
of over $ 140 billion by NATO´s European members, we still
need US help to move, command and provision a major operation.
American critics of Europe's military incapability are right.
So, if we are to ensure that the United States moves neither
towards unilateralism nor isolationism, all European countries
must show a new willingness to develop effective crisis management
I am therefore redoubling my clarion call of "capabilities,
capabilities, capabilities". This will not make me popular
in some capitals. I hope it will, nonetheless, be listened to,
especialy by Finance Ministers.
Yet the United States must do much more too. Not in terms of
soldiers on the ground or aircraft in the air. But in facilitating
the process of European defence modernisation. By easing unnecessary
restrictions on technology transfer and industrial cooperation,
Washington can improve the quality of the capabilities available,
and diminish any problems our forces have in working together.
If the US does not act in this way, the huge additional investment
it is making in defence will make practical interoperability
with Allies, in NATO or in coalitions, impossible. The gap between
American forces on the one hand and European and Canadian forces
on the other will be unbridgable . For Washington, the choice
could become: act alone or not at all, and that is no choice
Finally, we are beginning the modernisation of NATO's decision-making
processes. NATO has an unique ability to take and implement
quick decisions. We showed it last summer, when within five
days of the political decision we deployed 4,000 troops to the
former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to supervise a crucial
disarmament process, and help prevent a civil war.
That kind of quick action will be necessary in future - including,
potentially, to respond to terrorism. We must therefore ensure
that it can still be done after any NATO enlargement in November.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I welcome a renewed debate on NATO´s future. The Alliance
has a proud record and the proven ability to adapt as risks
In an uncertain world, NATO is not an optional extra. It is
the embodiment of the transatlanic bond, the fundamental guarantor
of Euro-Atlantic stability and security, and the essential platform
for defence cooperation and coalition operations.
As a result the Alliance remains as busy and as relevant to
the 21st century as it was to generations in the last one.
recognises the Republic of Macedonia by its constitutional