Updated: 14-Feb-2002 NATO Speeches

Warsaw, Poland
14 Feb. 2002

"Building Security in an Uncertain World"

Speech by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson

Let me begin by telling you how pleased I am to be here. And how once again I am struck by the extraordinary transition this country has made over the past decade.

Throughout its history, Poland has often been caught between East and West. And the Polish people have all too frequently suffered as a result.

But today, Poland is no longer in a strategic no-man's land. Within NATO, Poland has the security, and the freedom, for which it has fought for so long. This is a victory, first and foremost, for the people of Poland. But it is a victory in which all of Europe is sharing. Because Poland is now contributing to our collective security, as an active and confident member of the Atlantic Alliance.

As President Kwasnievski said at the Washington Summit: "our greatest asset lies in our values: freedom, democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law. In the defence of those values, Poland will not fail."

And it has not failed -- despite being tested often, and tested hard. Over the past three years, NATO has faced some of the toughest, most difficult security challenges imaginable. Challenges no other international organization could manage. And together, the 19 Allies have met them all.

Take Kosovo. NATO's operation 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, and with all our objectives met. Every time I visit Kosovo, I meet people who would not be alive today but for NATO.

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 political and military interoperability on which all coalition operations depend.

Of course, September 11th changed the world. And some critics now speak of NATO - and Europe - being marginalised.

The critics are wrong. NATO and its European members are not only part of the campaign against terrorism - they are an essential part.

By invoking Article 5, NATO's members have demonstrated that our solidarity is not an empty slogan - it is a reality. The Alliance has provided direct military support to the US-led operations, including patrolling US airspace for the first time in its history. NATO has been engaged politically, by helping to build an international coalition that includes NATO's members and NATO's 27 Partners. And the Alliance's procedures and practices, honed over decades of cooperation, have been essential to the European-led peacekeeping force now in Afghanistan.

No other organisation could have provided this kind of practical support, and no other organisation could have helped to build this kind of coalition. NATO is pre-eminently 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.

But to maintain that role, we have to adapt. Security is changing, and NATO has to change with it. What our critics don't seem to realise is that the process of transformation has already started.

We are adapting NATO, and our forces, to tackle terrorism more effectively, and to respond to the growing threat of weapons of mass destruction. We will roll out many of these improvements by the Prague Summit later this year. At the Summit, we will also move the enlargement process forward -- because our experience since the Washington Summit proves definitively that enlargement is good for NATO, and good for Euro-Atlantic security.

In parallel, we are working hard to improve European and Canadian forces, so that they can take a greater load off the shoulders of the US. And we are close to putting the final touches on the new NATO - EU security relationship, so that Europe can play the more equal, balanced role it should. Because if we are to ensure that the US moves neither towards unilateralism nor isolationism, then all European countries must show a new willingness to develop effective crisis management capabilities.

But facing down contemporary and future threats will also require unprecedented levels of cooperation with Partners outside the Alliance. This includes between NATO and Russia.

The terrorist attacks on the United States were not only a wake-up call for the Allies. They also made brutally clear something most of us have known for several years: that today's security challenges unite the Allies with Russia more than the legacy of the past divides us. And that we can no longer afford to cloud the structures of NATO-Russia cooperation with cultures of mutual fear and suspicion. Because without close cooperation between NATO and Russia, we cannot provide a comprehensive answer to today's threats.

September 11th was a catalyst. When the Foreign Ministers of NATO and Russia gathered in Brussels in December, they "condemned terrorism in all its manifestations" and agreed "to spare no efforts in bringing to justice the perpetrators, organisers and sponsors of such acts and in defeating the scourge of terrorism".

This was not short-term political rhetoric. Just over a week ago, I co-hosted, with Russian Defence Minister Ivanov, a NATO-Russia conference on the military role in combating terrorism, where we explored ways in which we can cooperate even more closely.

We have already pursued a comprehensive programme of cooperation with Russia in this area, focusing on areas where we can - together - complement efforts underway in other international fora. For example, we have begun regular and frank exchanges on the entire spectrum of the terrorist threat, including the risks of nuclear, biological and chemical proliferation.

We are examining enhanced cooperation on civil emergency planning, such as joint exercises to deal with the consequences for the civilian population of a large-scale terrorist attack. We are also exploring ways to increase practical NATO-Russia cooperation on technical and scientific issues, such as the further development of our capabilities in the detection of and protection against NBC attacks. This is an area where Russia has important knowledge and experience to contribute. But our common ground with Russia goes well beyond terrorism.

This new cooperation on counter terrorism comes on top of a very intensive level of consultations and cooperation with Russia on a wide range of issues such as Non-Proliferation, Theatre Missile Defence, Civil Emergency Planning and others in the framework of the Permanent Joint Council and the very constructive practical cooperation between NATO and Russian peacekeepers in theatre - in SFOR and KFOR - and in Search and Rescue at Sea after the "Kursk" tragedy. These experiences have shown that NATO and Russia can indeed cooperate in the interest of Euro Atlantic security and stability.

While our interests do not always coincide, we now decided to take the NATO-Russia relationship to a qualitatively higher level as, together, we face a large - and increasing - number of common security challenges. And, as important as our differences, past and present, have been, we cannot let the past cripple the future. We cannot wait for a similar tragedy as September 11 before we close ranks against proliferation or other contemporary threats. Simply put, a deeper and more trusting cooperation between NATO and Russia is essential to peace and security in the Euro-Atlantic area.

To achieve this NATO and Russia have agreed to work toward the creation of a new council, to identify and pursue opportunities for joint action at 20.

The details of how this will work have yet to be defined, so I am not holding back if I don't share them with you. But the principles are clear. When I met President Putin in Moscow last November, he suggested pursuing an enhanced partnership, based on a "logic of common interests." And that is exactly the path we are following.

The new mechanism under development will permit NATO and Russia to act together "at 20" in areas, such as the struggle against terrorism, where we know we share such a "logic of common interests,". But of course, we will preserve the Alliance's ability to act "at 19" on Alliance business, such as collective defence responsibilities, or where our interests and Russia's may diverge, such as on questions regarding the future membership of the Alliance.

As nearly five years of experience in the Permanent Joint Council have demonstrated, structures alone cannot form the basis for true partnership. But neither should structures obstruct the prospects for joint action where the political will for cooperation exists on both sides. This new model will make it easier to cooperate with Russia in developing and implementing common action where our interests coincide. By any standards, that is a goal worth pursuing.

I recognise that there are quite a few people who get nervous whenever we talk about closer cooperation with Russia. Many in Russia feel the same way about closer cooperation with NATO. And believe me, I know as well as anyone that NATO and Russia sometimes have disagreements.

But we have to recognise that, even where we have disagreed over specific policies, our strategic goals have often converged. We disagreed over military action in Kosovo, but agreed that democratic reform and respect for human rights in Yugoslavia would help to foster long-term regional stability. We disagreed, and indeed continue to disagree strongly, over the means employed by the Russian military in Chechnya, but agree that Russia has a right to defend her territorial integrity and protect her citizens from terrorism.

We have disagreed over NATO enlargement. But we agree that democratisation and economic prosperity in Central and Eastern Europe - developments that NATO enlargement helps to encourage and solidify - are in the long-term interest of both Russia and the West. And the evidence is that we are getting through to Russia on that point. President Putin made that clear in his recent visit here to Warsaw, where he spoke of how much better relations between your two countries have become. It is no coincidence that this improvement took place once Poland was embedded firmly and confidently in the Alliance. More and more Russians are acknowledging this very positive example.

I am realistic about NATO's relationship with Russia. We cannot, and do not, expect that a magical new partnership will develop overnight. Russia still has a long way to go along the course that President Putin has charted for her - the course of economic, political and societal reform, and increasing integration in the Western community of nations.

Parts of Russia's foreign and defence policy apparatus have not yet been freed completely from the attitudes and suspicions of the past. As President Putin himself told a gathering of civil society advocates at the Kremlin a few months ago, Russia's democratic traditions are still taking shape.

But we in NATO have a fundamental choice to make. Will we help guide Russia and her 150 million citizens toward greater integration into Euro-Atlantic structures, or will we erect new walls to keep them at bay? Will we try to find common approaches to global and regional security threats, or will we continue to go our own way, leaving Russia to do the same?

We know the answer. Engaging Russia is the only choice that will advance our own long-term security interests. Today, we have an historic opportunity to encourage Russia's integration into Western institutions and values. We cannot let this opportunity slip away.

The real threats to our security, from regional instability to the proliferation of ballistic missile technology and nuclear, biological and chemical agents, to terrorism, to cyber-warfare, to organised crime, do not recognise borders, and are faced by NATO Allies and Russia alike. Isolating or ignoring Russia would only hobble our response to those dangers. If we can develop common approaches to these challenges, if we can find a way to fulfil the Founding Act's vision of joint action against these threats, we will all benefit. Close practical and pragmatic cooperation between NATO and Russia could be as important a transformation for its good in the strategic environment as the events of September 11 were for evil.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

September 11th was a great tragedy. The challenge for the entire international community is to turn the tragedy into an opportunity. To tackle terrorism head on. To build better relations between countries that have reason to cooperate. To build security in a new way -- a way that meets, and defeats, the real challenges we face in the post-Cold War World.

NATO is critical to this campaign. By supporting the United States in the struggle against the perpetrators of the attacks of September 11. By adapting itself to meet the threats of today and tomorrow. And by building better, deeper relations with Russia -- a country whose future is crucial to Europe, and whose contribution to a safer Europe could be invaluable.

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