Updated: 06-Mar-2002 NATO Speeches

Berlin, Germany
4 March 2002

Ukraine and NATO -- Facing New Challenges

Closing Address
by NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson
at a conference organised by the Aspen Institute

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I want to thank the Aspen Institute for organising this event, with support by the International Staff of NATO, the Ukrainian Government and the German Minister of Defence. I also would like to thank our Ukrainian friends for sending such a high ranking delegation. I am also grateful to the Allies for being represented at such a senior level. This conference truly shows how important the NATO-Ukraine relationship really is for all of us.

For this reason I have been looking forward to coming here to share with you my views on the NATO-Ukraine relationship and the challenges it faces. And my interest grew even stronger when I saw mention on the programme of "security sector reform". This, as you know, is a subject on which I could speak forever. But I promise I will be brief this afternoon, or we will all miss the dinner that Minister Scharping is kindly hosting for us this evening in the prestigious Reichstag building.

As to the importance of the NATO-Ukraine relationship as such, I don't have to say much: it is self-evident. Ukraine occupies a pivotal geo-strategic position -- bridging East and West, bordering two NATO Allies as well as, of course, Russia. That is why Ukraine's steadfast determination to consolidate itself as a viable nation-state -- by pursuing democratic and economic reforms, an enlightened policy on ethnic minorities, and good relations with all of its neighbours -- is so important to us all. We have given it our support -- and we will continue to do so.

On 9 July we will celebrate five years of Distinctive Partnership between NATO and Ukraine. The North Atlantic Council will travel to Kyiv on that occasion for a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission at Ambassadorial level. In reaching such a milestone, it is certainly useful to look back at what has been achieved, as well as to look ahead at what is still outstanding, desirable and possible in our relationship.

Generally speaking, when looking back over these past five years, I think we have much to be pleased about. They have been five years of steady progress, of closer political engagement, and more substantial and effective cooperation.

Certainly in its foreign policy orientation, Ukraine has made many wise choices -- even before we concluded our Distinctive Partnership in 1997. Early on, Ukraine decided to adhere to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapons state. It then managed to resolve the thorny Black Sea Fleet issue with Russia. And it concluded groundbreaking bilateral treaties with its other neighbours.

These were all early indications of Ukraine's strong determination to pursue an active and cooperative approach to its own security and that of the Euro-Atlantic community.

More recently, this constructive approach has also been on display in the Balkans. We all remember how you stood with NATO when it launched its Kosovo air campaign, despite significant pressures to follow a different course. And your participation in the international community's peacekeeping efforts in the Balkans -- in addition to affirming your foreign policy orientation -- has been valuable in a number of other respects as well.

It has helped the cause of peace and stability in that war-torn region. It has also helped to familiarise Ukrainian forces with those of the Alliance and other Partners, and to enhance their interoperability. And it has helped the NATO alliance -- in mounting and sustaining military operations in various Balkan theatres, and engaging Ukraine in a frank and open assessment of security in the Balkans and how we should foster it.

Crises are a test of commitment -- and September 11th was a test for us all. In the wake of 11 September, Ukraine has been steadfast. It has shown a keen awareness of the threat which terrorism poses to our common security -- a realisation that this security threat, as well, requires a cooperative response -- and a determination to work with NATO and the rest of the international community in fighting this scourge.

Let me assure our Ukrainian friends that we have been heartened by their early positive response to NATO's invocation of Article 5, and the constructive attitude that they have subsequently taken in supporting the campaign against terrorism.

The record of the past years, until today, is clear. In its foreign and security policy orientation, Ukraine has followed a steady course. NATO, for its part, has been committed to supporting this orientation -- through high level statements of support, political and expert level consultations on issues of common concern, and by not only encouraging but actually facilitating Ukraine's participation in our common efforts in the Balkans.

But the scope of our Distinctive Partnership is wider than foreign and security policy per se. It also enables NATO to assist Ukraine in tackling some of its most challenging reform projects. And I am sure you would agree that in this area, progress has not met all of our expectations. The road to full economic and democratic reform is long, hard and not yet complete.

One crucial domestic challenge is security sector reform -- the main subject of your discussion earlier this afternoon. My views on this subject are clear. In the post Cold War security environment -- and especially following 11 September -- Cold War forces are simply a waste of money. Oversized and ill-structured forces not only fail to fulfil the military tasks we demand of them. They are also a burden on the economy and, hence, on other areas of domestic reform.

For all these reasons, security sector reform must be a central element of political and economic transformation. Now I know full well that this kind of reform is painful. All over the world the military is said to be an institution that traditionally resists change. But judging from my own experience as British Defence Minister -- and I am sure the NATO Defence Ministers around the table will agree -- military reforms can be carried through if they are well thought out, and if the military is given a clear perspective of the way ahead.

Over the past several years, we -- NATO Allies and Ukraine -- have done a considerable amount of conceptual work, in particular in the context of the NATO-Ukraine Joint Working Group on Defence Reform. Most recently, work has focused on translating aspects of the "State Programme of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Reform and Development until 2005" into a total of 80 achievable and affordable objectives. And at the moment, we are examining how existing PfP tools and resources may be used to support and reinforce Ukrainian efforts to meet these objectives.

This year we have to move from planning reforms to actually implementing them. I therefore strongly urge our Ukrainian friends to push ahead with reform, and encourage the Allies to make an extra effort to assist them.

I already noted that security sector reform inevitably has painful consequences -- military lose their jobs, bases are closed, excess military equipment needs to be destroyed, etc. We are not neglecting these consequences, and indeed have several projects in place to ease their negative effects. For example, since 1999, NATO and NATO members have been running courses for former military personnel. To date, more than 200 officers and warrant officers have been re-trained, of which some 70 per cent have already found new employment.

We are also helping the Ukrainian authorities with the problem of base closures, and in drafting their national conversion programme. And we are supporting a project for the destruction of half a million Anti Personnel Landmines.

Another important characteristic of our efforts in the area of Security Sector reform is that they are not limited to the Armed Forces, but also include the Border Guard and Interior Troops. This is not just because, like the Armed Forces, these are sizeable structures that are in need of streamlining. It is an attempt to help gear Ukraine's forces to a security environment in which they have little to fear from any of their neighbours, but must come to grips with newer security threats such as crime and terrorism, and drug and weapons trafficking.

Taking such a broad approach is necessary, but it also complicates matters. Because it means that more Ministries, Agencies and individuals are involved. There will be greater reluctance, greater bureaucratic inertia. There is no doubt in my mind, however, that tough choices will eventually have to be made anyway. Making them later will not make them easier. It will only make them more expensive -- and even more painful.

As I already said at the beginning of my remarks, NATO stands ready to continue to support Ukraine. But let me be very clear: In no way can foreign assistance be a substitute for a nation's own reform efforts. How fast and close Ukraine will move towards its European partners will be determined by the seriousness with which it tackles the double challenge it faces: continuing its successful foreign policy orientation and moving ahead with genuine domestic reform in all areas which make for a truly modern society, ready to cope with the winds of globalisation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is crucially important that Ukraine meets this double challenge. Because after September 11th, we know that geography is no longer security. Threats come from afar, and they bypass borders. No tank will keep out terrorists. No passport office can stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. And no fighter plane is useful when faced with thousands or even millions of refugees fleeing a nearby conflict.

These are international threats to our common security. To meet them, we need effective multinational cooperation, across a whole range of fronts, if we are to be successful. And that includes having affordable armed forces that are structured, equipped and trained to work with those of other countries.

NATO has already begun its own internal process of adaptation. The Alliance is 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. Our aim is to have a significant package of adaptations to meet this new threat in place by the NATO Summit meeting in Prague in November.

But NATO is not enough. We need our Partners. Over the past decade, NATO's Partnership initiatives have paid off their investment many times over. Partnership for Peace, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, and our special relationships with Ukraine and Russia, 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. We want to ensure that that value is retained, and enhanced, for all concerned.

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, we must ensure that our Partnerships remains as relevant, and as useful, in meeting new threats as it has proven to be until now. The Prague Summit will be an important moment to mark these important steps as well.

Indeed, the Prague Summit will be transformational right across NATO's Agenda. We will move the enlargement process forward, to bring more countries into the zone of total security that NATO represents. We will continue to deepen our relations with Ukraine and Russia, to build on new opportunities for cooperation. And we will take concrete steps to improve our defence capabilities within NATO -- and in particular, in Europe.

The choice for the Europeans is, in a sense, the same as it is for Ukraine: modernisation or marginalisation. So the European and Canadian NATO colleagues here today will not be surprised that I also use this opportunity to, once again, sound my clarion call of "capabilities, capabilities, capabilities". Because we absolutely must make sure we can at least work together, in NATO or in coalitions. The results of failure, for all of us, would be stark. An inability to work together. And an inability to preserve our security. Neither solution is acceptable.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

"Ukraine" means "borderland". In the past, this might have been an appropriate name for a country situated at the threshold of Asia. But today, geography is no longer destiny. Where you sit on the map does not determine where you stand as a nation. Ukraine has ceased to be a borderland. It has become a respected player in the new European system -- making a real contribution to meeting the security challenges we all face.

I encourage our Ukrainian friends to continue in that direction -- and to redouble their efforts. In the aftermath of 11 September, none of us has the luxury to be complacent. Each one of our countries must make the reforms necessary to be able to work with its partners, and to make an effective contribution. Those efforts are underway in NATO, in the European Union, and across Europe. Like all of our countries, Ukraine must ensure that it does not get left behind.

NATO stands ready to assist Ukraine's efforts. NATO and Ukraine will continue on the path of partnership and cooperation.

Thank you.

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