Updated: 18-Feb-2002 NATO Speeches

At Chatham
18 February 2002

"NATO: Enlarging and redefining itself"

Speech by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me start with a warning. We must all beware of what a philosopher once described as "the parochialism of the moment".

September 11 and the campaign against terrorism have changed the world. We face new threats alongside new partners. We need new solutions to unfamiliar challenges. But we also face old threats alongside traditional partners. And we cannot presume that because our focus has shifted, the familiar challenges have disappeared. Or became less demanding.

Before September 11, NATO's Prague Summit in November was commonly described as an enlargement summit. That was always a simplistic analysis. Now it is only half of the story.

At Prague, NATO will indeed consider its latest round of enlargement. And it will address the key consequences of enlargement for its future effectiveness.

But it will also be a summit of redefinition, of adaptation, in some respects of transformation. Those critics who complain that NATO has been marginalised by the events of September 11, and that it no longer meets the security needs of its member countries, should know that the Alliance is already on the job of major change. Prague will be a vital stage in that process.

First, enlargement. Without enlargement, Europe will remain unfinished business. Without enlargement, we would permanently frustrate the ambitions of countries of Central and Eastern Europe for inclusion in the transatlantic security and defence community. That would perpetuate an unnatural and potentially dangerous division between a prosperous, secure and self-confident West and an insecure and uncertain East.

NATO, like the EU, cannot evade this responsibility and this challenge. That is why we have committed ourselves to taking in at least one new member at Prague.

Some people accept this principle but have serious doubts about the practice. Will new members pull their weight? Will they play the NATO game of consultation, cooperation and consensus building?

I think they will. The nations to which we will issue invitations at Prague know very well what it means to be in an Alliance that works. Each has years of experience working with the Alliance, as Partners, including in bringing peace and stability to South East Europe. And each will have benefited from years of NATO-assisted defence reform. This will make them net security contributors, not mere security consumers.

Of course, enlargement is more than a selection process. Managing enlargement also means keeping the door open for future members. And it means continued engagement with all our Partners, whether they aspire to NATO membership or not.

With this audience, I do not need to rehearse the virtues of NATO's Partnership initiatives. You know as well as I that Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council have changed the face of European security. They have become political and military instruments for serious crisis management, as we see every day in our operations in the Balkans. And they have sowed the seeds of a true Euro-Atlantic security culture.

In the wake of the terrorist attacks on the United States, the 46 countries of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council proved to be the world's largest permanent coalition, staunch in their condemnation of criminal violence and robust in their defence against its perpetrators.

Enlargement will, however, change fundamentally the nature of Partnership. If NATO were to take in five or more new members at Prague, there would be more NATO member countries than non-member countries in the EAPC.

Some of these non-members have no wish to join the Alliance. Others have aspirations that will not become realistic for many years. And there are yet more countries who are thinking seriously about joining Partnership for the first time.

We will all continue to need a robust mechanism to link a larger NATO with the wider Europe, with the Caucasus and with Central Asia.

Some of the contours of a post-Prague Partnership are already becoming visible. Combating terrorism will play a more prominent role. And Partnership is an increasingly important means to address security sector reform. But more needs to be done. This is a challenge for NATO members and Partners alike. Together, they must ensure that their Partnership remains as attractive after Prague as it is at the moment.

Hand in hand with a redefinition of Partnership will be a redefinition of NATO's relationship with Russia.

We have been cautious partners for years, sometimes cooperating effectively as in Balkans peacekeeping; sometimes squabbling as during the Kosovo conflict; usually treading warily around each other in a mist of post-Cold War suspicions.

That has changed. September 11 created an entirely new context for NATO-Russia relations. It highlighted the fact that NATO and Russia share common interests and concerns -- and that they need to address these concerns together.

Terrorism is at the core of our cooperation. Two weeks ago today, I jointly hosted with Russian Defence Minister Ivanov a hugely successful joint NATO-Russia conference in Rome on military responses to terrorism. But we have a much wider shared agenda. Hence our determination to go beyond consultation and to work constructively together on all the issues where we have what President Putin calls "the logic of common interests".

A new forum for this cooperation, in which we can decide and act "at 20", should be ready well before Prague. Our aim is to have it operational, with myself in the chair and Russia seated between Portugal and Spain, by the time Foreign Ministers meet in Iceland in May.

This does not mean that I harbour romantic expectations about NATO's relationship with Russia. We will not always agree; I do not expect Moscow to enthusiastically welcome NATO enlargement. NATO countries will continue to be robust critics if we disapprove of Russia's policies and their implementation, including in Chechnya. And we will ensure that cooperation does not undermine NATO's cohesion and autonomy of action.

But this initiative gives us the chance to transform the strategic picture as fundamentally for the good as it was for evil on September 11. That is a real goal for a transformation summit.

Equally important is the issue of terrorism. Prague will not turn NATO into the world's global terrorist-hunter. But neither will it prove the critics' case that NATO has no role in dealing with this and other asymmetric threats.

The Alliance is already an essential part of the campaign against terrorism. Ignore the revisionists. Declaration of Article 5 was a powerful statement of political solidarity, a real commitment to offer practical support and a unique signal to the world's terrorists that they had crossed a serious threshold with their attack. NATO forces have already done excellent work in smashing dangerous Al Qaida cells in the Balkans.

Since then, NATO has not led the fight in Afghanistan because, as with Desert Storm in the Gulf, a larger, more diverse coalition was needed. But NATO's political, military and logistic support has been essential. The European members of the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul can work so effectively together and with the United States only because of decades of practical cooperation in NATO. The assistance of the Central Asian countries, without whose airspace and bases success in Afghanistan would have been impossible, is the product of years of quiet work building partnership and trust in the Alliance.

Afghanistan is not an example or justification of super-power unilateralism. On the contrary, it reinforces the fact that no large modern military operation can be undertaken without allies, partners and coalitions.

The US Administration knows this, just as it understands that in the war against terrorism, military power is only one arrow in the international community quiver. To quote US Defence Secretary Rumsfeld, "the uniforms of this conflict will be bankers' pinstripes and programmers' grunge just as assuredly as desert camouflage."

There is, nonetheless, an important role for the military. Because NATO is the world's most effective military organisation, it therefore has a vital part to play in multinational crisis prevention and crisis management, including in dealing with asymetric threats. Prague will consolidate the Alliance's position as the primary means for developing our armed forces to defeat terrorism and contribute to meeting other asymetric challenges.

NATO is already hard at work examining ways to improve military capabilities to defend and strike against terrorists, and to develop our forces' ability to protect themselves against weapons of mass destruction. In parallel, we are looking at how best to use unique military skills and capabilities more effectively to protect our populations, and to assist in civil emergencies.

If we do not develop our capabilities in this way, how will we explain to our publics if the next major terrorist attack uses microscopic germs instead of massive jet airliners and we are unable to respond?

This new work is of course part of a wider effort to continue the modernisation of European and Canadian forces.

In the wake of September 11, we find ourselves in the midst of a new burden-sharing debate. During the Cold War, that debate was characterised by political demands in the US that the Europeans do more to share the burden of collective defence as a quid pro quo for extended deterrence and US forward basing in Europe.

Today, the terms of the debate are different. There are no US demands. Washington wants the Europeans to be able to contribute effectively to operations which benefit the Euro-Atlantic community as a whole. But the political pressure for the Europeans to do more comes primarily from within Europe.

Let me be quite clear. I am committed to modernising Europe's armed forces for two equally important reasons. First, because I am a committed Atlanticist. And as an Atlanticist, my judgement is that enabling NATO's European members to take a greater share of the burden of maintaining our common transatlantic security is the best possible way to build on the emotional and practical strengthening of transatlantic bonds resulting from September 11.

But I am also a committed European. The EU's European Security and Defence Identity conceived at St Malo was in part at least my brainchild. For the past two years, I have worked in NATO to build the sound, practical relationship between the Alliance and the EU on which a successful ESDI depends. And I spent much of last year in a double-act with the EU's Javier Solana to keep the fragile peace in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia1.

My European credentials are unimpeachable.

So I want Europe to share the military burden because it is in our interests for Europe to play a stronger role in the transatlantic partnership, and take on more defence and security responsibilities. My aim is for the European countries, in NATO and the EU, to have a military capacity that better reflects their political and economic might.

Today's picture is not as bleak as some paint it. For example, on the ground in the Balkans, the Europeans are doing the lion's share. More than 85% of peacekeeping troops are Europeans, and the EU contributes the bulk of reconstruction and development costs. Europeans filled the gap when the US needed to move forces to Afghanistan, including by rapidly redeploying French AWACS aircraft. And in the coming months, we will see increasing efforts by the Europeans to further reduce the US share in these Balkans operations.

Orders of battle and headquarters wiring diagrams also 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 effective forces in significant numbers outside their borders, and sustain them for months or even years as we all need to do today.

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.

As an Atlanticist and as a European, I am convinced that if we are to ensure that the United States moves neither towards unilateralism nor - equally damaging - isolationism, all European countries must show a new willingness to develop effective crisis management capabilities.

The choice for the Europeans - and Canada - is modernisation or marginalisation. I am therefore sounding once again my clarion call of "capabilities, capabilities, capabilities". In preparing for Prague, we must look honestly at what we have achieved so far in NATO through the Defence Capabilities Initiative, and then produce a blueprint for redoubling our efforts.

My own inclination is to refocus on a much smaller number of absolutely critical capabilities and to commit nations even more strongly to acquiring them. In doing so, however, we must ensure that our work continues to run in parallel with and to complement the EU's Headline Goal process.

And to those who argue that the US defence build-up will be good only for the US defence industry, there is no reason why European industry should not similarly benefit from a drive to restore European capability. Most of the important DCI and Headline Goal shortages could be met by European companies.

This is a powerful message for European Allies. But I have an equally powerful and blunt message for the United States.

That message is that 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, and by liberalising its export policies, 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 unbridgeable. For Washington, the choice could become: act alone or not at all. And that is no choice at all.

Finally, as part of this process of redefinition, we are beginning the further modernisation of NATO's decision-making machinery. NATO has an unique ability to take and implement quick decisions. We showed it in Kosovo three years ago when 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. If NATO have not acted swiftly and effectively, Mr Milosevic would not today be in The Hague but living in Belgrade's Presidential Palace.

We showed this ability to move rapidly again 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 NATO's enlargement in November.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have, I hope, demonstrated that the Prague Summit will be much more than an "enlargement Summit". It will deliver on all the key issues that affect European and transatlantic security alike. It will result in an Alliance geared towards the new challenges posed by terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

But it will also fine-tune NATO to pursue its wider agenda: creating long-term stability in the Balkans; helping to overcome Europe's Cold War division by offering membership; drawing Russia closer to the Alliance; and improving defence capabilities.

That is a tall order, but it is an agenda which no other institution than NATO can address.

Thank you.

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