Updated: 05-Mar-2002 NATO Speeches

Rome, Italy
28 Feb. 2002

"NATO in the 21st Century"

by the Chairman of the Military Committee,
Admiral Guido Venturoni
to the NATO Defense College Senior Course 100

Ladies and Gentlemen, a few years ago I made my first inauguration address as CMC (to Senior Course 95) - in this very hall! I say a few years ago because it seems just like yesterday - at which point I am forced to face reality and accept that it was last century - and perhaps take stock of a little more than what I just said! Take stock of what has really happened over recent years, where we stand now in the Alliance and most importantly where we are going in the future.

It may come as some surprise to you that in accepting this invitation - I am especially aware of what this moment means to you all - some of you may have been drawn into the Alliance for the first time. The prospect of different environments, backgrounds, and different ideas brought together under one roof, one flag makes this sabbatical attractive as well as invigorating - I envy you! So, at the beginning of this course and what will undoubtedly be a fascinating and enriching experience for you all, I would like to give you some simple but, I believe important perceptions, some markers, some snapshots on the Alliance at this defining moment, a moment that comes just over 50 years since General Eisenhower inaugurated the first senior course in the early days of the Cold War.

Let's start with the most Immediate Challenge - Terrorism.

In the 99 Alliance Strategic Concept, terrorism was ranked as a "risk". Para 24 stipulated that "Alliance security interests can be affected by other risks of wider nature, including acts of terrorism, sabotage etc." The 11th of September 2001 made us aware that we are exposed to an existential threat from terrorism. Whatever the definition may be, it is apparent that the nowadays terrorists seek massive impact through indiscriminate killings of innocent people, destruction of institutions and fabric of modern societies. Without oversimplifying this complex phenomenon, we may say that, in variance with the past, current patterns have demonstrated a network-borderless type of association, supported directly or indirectly by states, and increased lethality and reach. The aggregate effect of these factors, combined with suicide-type missions, makes deterrence less relevant.

All the more it is becoming manifest that such actions might be associated to the possible use of weapons of mass destruction by terrorists. Indeed, this phenomenon poses a multi-faceted strategic challenge to the International Community. Therefore, meeting this threat is becoming a matter of utmost importance where the military aspects are only part of the solutions. In fact, to be successful we need to synchronise efforts across military, economic/financial, diplomatic and law enforcement actions on a wide scale and in the context of coherent strategy. However, there are obviously circumstances where the military has a vital role to play.

On the political dimension, the declaration by NATO of Article 5 on 12 September sent an unmistakably powerful message. Well beyond its symbolic content, this act puts again "defence" mission in its wider meaning, defence against asymmetrical threats and WMD proliferation on top of the priority list. In addition, we are witnessing that this kind of defence impacts on the nature of the fight/war against complex transnational networks and on the limits of NATO's area of intervention. This is the most significant change to the 99 strategic landscape.

NATO's unequivocal solidarity with the United States was also expressed in practical form, when the Council agreed that NATO collectively would take 8 specific military measures in response to a United States' request for assistance. The most visible of these were to deploy to the United States seven NATO AWACS aircraft to help in their homeland defence, and to deploy NATO naval standing forces to the Eastern Mediterranean. The other 6 steps focused on less glamorous, but still important, measures - such as intelligence sharing (one of the most important factors in the fight against terrorism), civil- military integration in the areas of consequence management, overflight clearances, ready access to ports and airfields and backfilling in the Balkans. And you should recall that support to the US is not just about Brussels-mandated activities; Article 5 also covers bilateral assistance given directly by nations.

Another undertaking is the longer-term response, our so-called TRACK 2. This includes a variety of initiatives, which will position NATO to defend and counter the threat of terrorism better in the future. The NATO Military Authorities have been tasked by the Defence Ministers, in their December Statement on Terrorism, to develop a military concept for defence against terrorism, following the political guidance from the North Atlantic Council. Ministers also tasked NATO to review the effectiveness of the Alliance's defence and military policies, structures and capabilities for the full range of NATO missions. And third, amongst other things, Ministers expect NATO to identify improvements that would enhance our defensive posture against terrorist attacks in relevant areas of the Defence Capabilities Initiative.

And this last point brings about the issue of capabilities; not new, it goes back to 99, but whose implementation is per se a current challenge. Let me say that one of the key messages that is coming out of the Prague Summit preparations is that the Alliance still harbours the ambition to be able to respond flexibly to all possible contingencies of the 21st Century: so NATO must adapt and modernise accordingly. Matching ends with means implies that NATO's clout is credible only if backed by genuine capabilities to fight terrorism and asymmetric threats. Therefore, NATO as a homogeneous body should be provided with a balanced set of capabilities, qualitative and quantitative, evenly distributed across its territory to minimise centres of gravity. As well, under the assumption that resort to multi-national formations will continue, so that all Allies can operate effectively together, in the full range of modern military operations, NATO should refocus DCI, harmonise defence planning and concentrate on fielding up-to-date relevant and interoperable capabilities. Of course, ongoing work and adaptation of military structures should be linked to the above activities.

NATO's current strategic interests are, of course, not limited to fighting terrorism. Next - the present challenge entails what I will call the revisit of relations with partners and our operations in the Balkans. As for the first, overall I may say that Euro-Atlantic commitments such as PfP derivatives, special relationships (Russia, Ukraine) are well set in train and progressing, as well as the Mediterranean Dialogue activities. Under this heading, Enlargement and deepened NATO-Russia co-operation are going to be central to the incoming Prague Summit agenda, complementing the already mentioned fight against terrorism.

Let me expand a little bit on these two topical issues, - which are going to be central to the upcoming Prague Summit agenda - , and their interaction. Coherent with the Washington Summit declaration - the open-door policy - NATO intends to pursue another round of Enlargement and there is the will to make it as successful as the last. To alleviate Russian concerns that it will not be conducted at the expense of its security, the Alliance is striving to bring home to the Russian side the concept that an Enlargement eastward is not an end in itself, and is not to be seen through the prism of territorial gain. Provided that application for membership is a national choice, we are stressing that enlarging the community of stable democracies implies extending security, stability, predictability and welfare. All in all a win-win situation, in which a new NATO-Russia relationship would be of mutual enormous benefit in meeting the dangerous challenges that lie ahead. This new relationship is taking shape and you have certainly heard of the prospect of a Council at 20. As for the Enlargement, we now look forward to welcoming new nations into the Alliance at Prague later this year.

The 99 launched MAP has proved itself a very useful tool in helping countries to adapt their armed forces, increase operational effectiveness and to prepare for the obligations the new membership will bring. Work is ongoing in the military sphere in order to be able to provide, at a later stage and when required, an assessment on the associated implications. Needless to say that the Enlargement and the new NATO-Russia relationship will have a positive impact on the overall European geo-strategic landscape.

We must also continue to deepen and, to a certain extent, refocus our engagement with the Euro-Atlantic partners, who represent the world's largest permanent coalition. The EAPC/PfP initiative has proved itself an effective and successful tool. It must maintain its relevance, fostering military interoperability and operational effectiveness.

Finally, looking at our closest neighbours in Brussels, you are certainly aware of the development of ESDI within the Alliance as well as its aims. Arrangements, although at a low pace, are, however, being worked on steadily between NATO and the EU in order to develop an effective co-operation. The process involves the strengthening of Europe's own military capacities, to achieve a fairer distribution of burdens and responsibilities of security between the two sides of the Atlantic. The main hurdle is still the problem of participation and, as you know, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

Contacts between the Military Committees of NATO and the EU have already started and are going to be intensified. The common objective is to prevent duplications, to organise efforts so as to create synergy, maximising resources and increasing efficiency through closer consultation and co-operation.

Your role, in building and fostering these relationships and helping those who want to be part of our security structures, will be essential. Expanding and broadening the relations of the Alliance, therefore, is a key point I want you to take away today.

A few words about NATO-led operations in the Balkans. They are certainly a success story - including the most recent initiative in FYROM. However, although substantive progress has been made, SFOR and KFOR still appear to be crucial for a long time yet. Over the past six years, the nature of the Balkans' missions and the threats have changed, also as a consequence of the democratic evolution in the FRY. Now, some of the old threats are no longer there and the operational areas are increasingly affected by some common themes, such as organised crime, radicalism and terrorism. This presents both a challenge and an opportunity.

To identify the way ahead more precisely, SHAPE is conducting a mission analysis. The results and recommendations will be available through the Military Committee in time for the Spring Ministerial meetings in 2002.
Finally a further look into NATO's future. Ladies and Gentlemen, NATO has changed significantly since its establishment in 1949 adapting quickly to the evolving strategic landscape. NATO has proved itself as the most successful security alliance in history. The Secretary General, addressing the Munich Conference quoted the Wall Street Journal, which recently stated "if security were a marketable product, it would be hard to think of a better "brand" than NATO".

As you know, the yardstick of success is achievement; programmes are useless unless they lead to concrete results. NATO has been successful in the post-Cold War era in a decade where its very existence was questioned. The Alliance, when involved, exceeded the expectations. It stopped the war in Bosnia in 1995 and since 6 years is keeping the peace there. It prevented a humanitarian catastrophe in Kosovo, winning the 78-day quick and decisive war, which in the aftermath led to the fall of the dictatorship in FRY. In Southern Serbia it managed the successful re-entry process of FRY security forces in the Ground Safety Zone, stopping a potentially dangerous insurgency. It prevented the outbreak of a civil war in FYROM, in concert with the EU economic and diplomatic leverage; NATO Forces are still there to help keep the peace. NATO developed a unique partnership with Ukraine and Russia and established partnership links from Croatia to Tajikistan. Success stories in the strategic dimension, complemented by other far-reaching contributions, in the role of facilitator of multi-national interoperability and coalition building.

It's however acknowledged that the current structure, against the background of post September 2001 and enlargement implications, do presuppose further adaptation. The key question is "What do we want NATO to look like in 5-10 years?" I do not have an answer to these questions. Conventional wisdom tells that there are, of course, limits - constraints inherent in the Alliance as its modus operandi is confronted with new dimensions of risks and threats. Let me mention for example its decision making process. Reaching consensus is sometimes hard and time-consuming. But once reached, when vital interests are at stake, it brings the weight of legitimacy. I think that this fundamental nature of the Alliance will not change.

So, not to lose efficiency, we must improve our internal and external management capabilities. Needless to say, there is going to be a passionate debate in Brussels and Capitals entailing NATO's future path, since Nations must have a say on their Alliance future. Without entering in this political debate outside our purview, I can only say that the next Prague event, expected as the Transformation Summit, will provide the right answer. It is then up to you, the audience, your colleagues at home in the NATO structure, or other International Community organisations, to bring the process into being.

Thank you and best wishes.

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