Updated: 06-Mar-2002 NATO Speeches

At the Hanns
Seidel Stiftung
6 March 2002

"Towards the Prague Summit and beyond"

Speech by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Jean Monnet, one of the fathers of the European Union, once said that "the lessons of history stay learned if they are embedded in institutions."

In terms of security, the lessons of the twentieth century have been clear. That cooperation and integration are the foundations of stability. That by working together, Europe and North America can face any security challenge successfully. And that effective and credible armed forces are absolutely essential to building peace and security.

Throughout its history, NATO has embodied those lessons -- and proved their wisdom. Throughout the Cold War, the United States remained a European power. European countries institutionalised their defence cooperation, so precluding the renationalization of defence.

And in meeting one challenge after the other -- from the Cold War, to stabilizing the Balkans, to assisting the transition of new democracies -- NATO countries proved that determination, unity and credible capabilities are the key ingredients of security.

Those lessons are as true now as they were fifty years ago. But today, we must also learn new lessons. September 11th proved Francis Fukuyama wrong, because history is certainly not at an end. On the contrary: the terrorist attacks demonstrated instead that our security is still under threat, but from new directions, and in devastating new ways. Make no mistake, the risks are real.

Our challenge, as a Euro-Atlantic community, is to produce an effective response. We must adapt our institutions to be better able to preserve our security in this new environment. But we must not forget the important principles on which NATO's success has been built: the stabilizing benefits of integration; the importance of preserving the transatlantic link; and the necessity of maintaining effective armed forces.

NATO's Prague Summit in November will accomplish all of these goals. It will mark a transformation in NATO's capacity to tackle terrorism, and other new or asymetric threats. And at the same time, the Summit will also take forward major projects already underway in the Alliance to build peace and security right across Europe.

At Prague, NATO is not about to change direction one hundred and eighty degrees, jettison the rest of its agenda, and suddenly become the world's premier terrorist hunter. NATO is not, and will not be, solely about terrorism. But NATO is about security -- and we are in an age where terrorism has gone from being a domestic police issue to a matter of national and international security. Which means that the Alliance has a key role to play in meeting this challenge, today and into the future.

The Alliance is already an essential part of the campaign against terrorism. Regardless of what the compulsive critics might say, the declaration of Article 5 was a powerful statement of transatlantic unity and a real commitment to offer practical support. It was also a unique signal to the world that the terrorists had posed a strategic challenge to the international community - and that the international community stood ready to respond.

Since then, NATO has provided direct political and military support to the US-led operations, including by patrolling US airspace. Individual Allies are also making key contributions. Troops from many NATO members are fighting alongside US forces in operations against Al-Qaida. And as we've seen in recent days again, these are serious operations, in which well-trained, well-equipped forces are a necessity.

NATO has also made a key contribution to the peacekeeping force in Kabul today. After all, 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. And let us not forget that 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.

Which brings me to a illusion which is getting a little too much airtime these days: that Afghanistan is an example or justification of super-power unilateralism. I say look again -- because Afghanistan proves just the opposite. It reinforces the fact that no large modern military operation can be undertaken without allies, partners and coalitions.

The US Administration knows this, which is why it has worked so hard to build the right coalition, in NATO, with individual Allies, and with important countries in the region and around the world. Far from going it alone, the US has relied on traditional allies, deepened ties with newer friends such as Russia, and developed links with new partners as well. Not exactly the definition of unilateralism!

But I am not trying to bury my head in the sand. Even if fears of rampant US unilateralism are unfounded, other concerns are being heard that make more sense. Two in particular are raised most often, and you are familiar with them: first, that as an Atlantic community, we don't have the military capacities we need to face modern challenges; and second, that Europe in particular doesn't have the capacities to pull its weight when it comes to security.

As I said a few minutes ago, NATO is about learning, and acting on the lessons of history. And the Alliance has always focused on developing the right military capabilities, and balancing burdens fairly among Allies. That is why the Alliance is hard

at work to try to address these two concerns, and the Prague Summit will be an important step forward in these efforts.

In countering terrorism, there is clearly an important role for the military. And hence for NATO, as the world's most effective military organisation. We are hard at work examining ways to improve our 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 we can use our skills and capabilities more effectively to protect our populations, and to assist in civil emergencies. Our progress on all of these fronts will be examined, and taken forward, in Prague.

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

In the wake of September 11, we find ourselves in the midst of a new, and serious burden-sharing debate. There are increasing voices in the US who are claiming that Europe will simply never shoulder its fair share of the burden of security. And while Europe has made more efforts in the past three years than in the previous thirty to improve its capacities, the truth is that European aspirations and ambitions are not yet being matched by resources.

Now, I know that this can be an unpleasant message -- especially for the finance ministers who will have to come up with the money for improvements. But there is no way to avoid the basic truth that improvements have to be made. And they have to be made quickly.

I am convinced that Europe must share the military burden because it is in the interests of Europeans to play a stronger role in the transatlantic partnership, and take on more defence and security responsibilities. We must ensure that European countries, in NATO and the EU, have a military capacity that better reflects their political and economic might.

I have spent the past few years acting on that conviction. 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 Macedonia .

This NATO-EU cooperation already now works quite well in practice - but it is still ad-hoc. We need to lock in these arrangements, by finding agreement on some key issues, such as assuring EU-access to NATO's defence planning on one hand, and on the other hand, the question of ensuring adequate participation of non-EU NATO members in EU-led operations.

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 the Balkans operations. There is real capacity in Europe, and real will to act.

But the reality remains that that the need for effective capacities far outstrips the capacities themselves. We are hard pressed to maintain 50,000 European troops in the Balkans, even though Europe has 2 million people in uniform. 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.

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. That is also a clear lesson of history, and we must not forget it, in NATO or in Europe.

The choice for the Europeans - and Canada - is modernization 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 Presidents and Prime Ministers know what they are, and to commit nations even more strongly to acquiring them. We absolutely must make sure we can at least work together, in NATO or in coalitions.

We cannot allow the gap between American forces on the one hand and European and Canadian forces on the other to become unbridgeable. The results of failure, for Washington and for Europe, would be stark: the choice of acting alone or not at all. And that is no choice at all. Between now and Prague -- indeed, as soon as possible -- we simply must make concrete progress on this.

But of course, Prague will be about much more than taking on terrorism, or improving capabilities. As I mentioned earlier, the twentieth century taught us the value of integration and cooperation for security. And at our first Summit of the twenty-first century, we will continue to act on that lesson.

Before September 11, the Prague Summit was commonly described as an enlargement summit. That was always a simplistic analysis. Now it is very clearly only part of the story. But it is an important part.

Without enlargement, Europe would 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. Integration remains as vital to security today as ever. That is why we have committed ourselves to taking in at least one new member at Prague. And because of the reforms they have undertaken with NATO's help, and because of the benefits of our cooperation in the Balkans, these countries will be ready to be security contributors, not mere 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.

Over the past decade, NATO's Partnership initiatives have paid off their investment many times over. 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, as we saw in the wake of the September 11th attacks.

We need to ensure that post-enlargement, that value is retained, and enhanced, for all concerned -- Allies and Partners alike. At Prague, we will deepen our cooperation in new areas, such as on terrorism, and tailor the Partnerships even more closely to the challenges we all face today.

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

September 11th has 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. In a sense, it has given us the opportunity to slam the door on outdated Cold War suspicions, and get down to work on practical cooperation.

Terrorism is at the core of our cooperation these days. Four weeks ago, 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 by the time Foreign Ministers meet in Iceland in May.

Now, I have never been accused of being a dewy-eyed romantic, and I harbour no illusions about NATO's relationship with Russia. I know 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 does give us the chance to take advantage of our new cooperation after September 11th, and transform the strategic picture for the better. To paraphrase Henry Kissinger, we will take a tragedy and turn it into an opportunity. That is a real goal for a transformation summit.

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 and enhancing partnership; 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. We will demonstrate, in Prague, that an old dog can learn new tricks -- and that in the Atlantic Alliance, the lessons of history have been learnt.

Thank you.

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