Updated: 19-Feb-2002 NATO Speeches

At the European Parliament Conference,
19 February 2002

"A Global Dimension
for a Renewed Transatlantic Partnership"

Remarks by Lord Robertson, NATO Secretary General

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honoured to be the first NATO Secretary General to address this Committee. And I will try to make the most of it, by being both provocative and brief.

September 11 2001 caused an extraordinary upsurge in transatlantic solidarity. It created an unprecedented coalition against terrorism, with the transatlantic nations at its core. But it also posed fundamental questions about how we are to ensure our future security.

Some of the questions are not new. They arose after the Cold War and following the Gulf Conflict. "What role should the North Americans play in Europe?" "What role should the Europeans play beyond Europe?" "What part should NATO play?"

Other questions have, however, been posed by the horrific events of September 11 and its aftermath. "What is the best way to deal with terrorism and threats from weapons of mass destruction?" "How can we build on the strengths of our existing structures to meet these new increased challenges?"

It is the responsibility of governments and organisations such as NATO to satisfy you and your publics that we are answering these questions.

Two years ago, I suggested a set of guiding principles for a European Security and Defence Policy evolving in harmony with NATO: these 3 positive principles were the three "I's" - Indivisibility, Inclusiveness and Improvement. On reflection, I believe that these three "I's" also serve as guidelines for the wider transatlantic security relationship.

Indivisibility refers to our security. All the major security challenges that lie ahead affect Europe and North America. The Balkans experience of the early 1990s should have taught us a lesson. Initially, the US believed that they were not affected -- that the US didn't have "a dog in this fight" and could leave things to the Europeans. And the Europeans famously announced that "the hour of Europe" had come.

In the end, however, the US realised that European security is American security. And the Europeans realised that transatlantic cooperation was timely. As a result, together we ended a war in Bosnia, stopped ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, and prevented a civil war in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (1).

The indivisibility of security also applies to the challenge of terrorism.
When the terrorists hit the World Trade Center, "Le Monde" carried a headline saying: "we are all Americans".

That was not just a reflexive gesture. It was a recognition that Europe can be hit by catastrophic terrorism just as hard as the US. After all, Europeans have been exposed to terrorism for far longer than the US.

That's why NATO's invocation of Article 5, the blanket overflight rights Allies granted to each other, or NATO AWACS protecting US airspace were not just token symbols of support for the US: they were also in the strategic self-interest of Europe: to prevail in the battle against terrorism.

If the challenges affect us all, the only feasible approach to deal with them is an inclusive one. Hence, my second "I": Inclusiveness. Inclusiveness that extends beyond NATO, beyond its current 19 members. The Alliance must engage and cooperate with all nations of the Euro-Atlantic area.

NATO's Partnership initiatives have created such a link between NATO and the wider Europe. The 46 nations of the Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council have become the epitome of an inclusive approach to security.

Some Partners have stated their intention to go further: to become a member of NATO. This is a legitimate demand. If Europe is to grow together, if it is to fully overcome its erstwhile Cold War division for good, our key institutions cannot remain geared to the past -- neither in their policies, nor in their memberships. That is why NATO -- very much like the European Union -- must face the challenge of enlargement. And why at our Summit in Prague next November, we will issue one or more new invitations.

The logic of inclusiveness is also applicable to our relations with Russia. September 11 has created an entirely new context for NATO-Russia relations. It has highlighted the fact that NATO and Russia share common concerns -- and that they had better focus on addressing these concerns together.

Hence our determination to go beyond consultation and actually decide together on all the issues where we have common interests. A new forum for our cooperation, in which we can decide and act "at 20", should be ready soon. This means that I will be in the chair and Russia will sit between Portugal and Spain. It will symbolise what has become ever more urgent, and what NATO and Russia should in fact have achieved much sooner: a genuine partnership that enables us to meet the new security challenges together.

NATO's success in building an inclusive approach to security demonstrates the strategic value of a strong, permanent Alliance, with deeply ingrained habits of cooperation and mutual trust that comes from shared values. But even such well-established, long-term alliances will need to adapt if they want to be around for the longer term. This brings me to my last "I": Improvement.

As far as NATO is concerned, its role in combating terrorism is being strengthened. Intelligence-sharing among Allies will be increased further. We will use our Centre for Weapons of Mass Destruction to focus more systematically on the protection of our forces and populations against nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, on the dangers of proliferation, and on ballistic missile defence. And we will review our defence capabilities to tailor them more specifically to the requirements of combating terrorism. This new work is of course part of a wider effort to continue the modernisation of European and Canadian forces.

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/ESDP depends.

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 European, and the EU contributes the bulk of reconstruction and development costs.

But, the bitter 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 all European countries must show a new willingness to develop effective crisis management capabilities.

The choice for the Europeans is modernisation or marginalisation. I am therefore sounding once again my clarion call of "capabilities, capabilities, capabilities". My own inclination for the NATO-Prague Summit is to refocus on a much smaller number of absolutely critical capabilities and to commit nations 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 capability shortfalls could be met by European companies.

But the United States similarly should facilitate this 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.

Otherwise, 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. For Americans and Europeans alike.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The attacks on September 11 were an attack against us all. But as Henry Kissinger put it, we began with a tragedy and are ending up with an opportunity. The opportunity to draw the right lessons, to learn and to adapt. In short, the opportunity to build a renewed transatlantic security partnership for the Third Millennium.

Thank You.

  1. Turkey recognises the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name.

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