Updated: 11-Sep-2002 NATO Speeches

At the German
Marshall Fund
September 11th
11 Sep. 2002


by NATO Secretary General , Lord Robertson

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It has been only one year since the terrible events which we are here to commemorate. Only far into the future will historians draw the final lessons of that day, and of its long-term implications for international security.

But one thing, above all, is already clear. History will always judge September 11th, 2001, as a day of enormous tragedy. Thousands of innocent people, from over eighty countries, were slaughtered in the space of a few hours in the most violent way possible. This was a horror beyond imagining; a crime without equals; an attack without precedent.

And it was more than an attack on its immediate victims, or even on the United States. It was also a challenge. A challenge to the international community to defend our fundamental values: democracy, freedom, fundamental human rights. September 11th was, in a very real sense, a call to arms.

History will judge that the world has answered that call. Countries from every region, of all faiths and all ethnic groups, have contributed political support, intelligence, financial cooperation and, of course, direct military assistance. Indeed, in the past year, the United States has assembled, and led, a coalition broader than any that has existed in history.

At the core of this ad-hoc coalition has been the world's only permanent coalition -- our Atlantic Alliance. From the moment of the attacks, NATO and its members have stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States. The invocation of Article 5, for the first time in history, symbolised that solidarity, and set the groundwork for the broad and profound assistance that NATO's members would provide. AWACS have patrolled US skies, NATO ships are backing up US vessels, Allied aircraft and soldiers are hunting Al-Qaida and Taliban forces in Afghanistan. NATO forces are at the core of the International Security Assistance force that is keeping the peace in Kabul. And the Alliance has helped to build the broad coalition with its Partners, including those in Central Asia.

This is the kind of strong, immediate and sustained assistance that only NATO could provide. Which is why President Bush, Secretaries Powell and Rumsfeld, Ambassador Burns and so many other US officials have consistently expressed their gratitude to their Allies in NATO. As Secretary Rumsfeld said a few months ago, the success we have had until now in battling terrorism simply could not have happened without NATO.

But of course, we cannot simply leave it at that. September 11 was more than a tragedy, and more than a call-to-arms. It was also a clear signal that we must make fundamental changes in the way we look at security, and the way we preserve it.

On that fateful day, the hijackers took two normal instruments of everyday life - the box-cutter and the passenger plane - and created a missile. They thought the unthinkable, and succeeded in their terrible mission.

We, too, must think in new, creative ways, if we are to preserve our security against new and unpredictable threats. And the Alliance has already made a strong start.

NATO has changed its policy to take on the challenge of combating terrorism front and centre. The Alliance is also preparing to take on the challenge posed by weapons of mass destruction. Allies are enhancing their essential military capabilities, so that our forces are better able to get to they are needed, and to prevail. We are taking in new members, which will broaden our community and further enhance our political and military options. These adaptations, which the Prague Summit will take forward, will ensure that the Alliance responds to September 11th in the right way - by learning the right lessons, and making the necessary adaptations. Exactly what NATO has done throughout its history.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

When the terrorists attacked one year ago today, they made some terrible miscalculations. They assumed we wouldn't have the courage to strike back. They were wrong, and are now on the run, without a safe haven anywhere in the world.

They hoped the attacks would provoke a terrified West into a withdrawal from the world. Wrong again. The global campaign against terrorism has actually deepened our engagement with new Partners, including in Central Asia.

The terrorists also hoped to strike a blow for Islamic fundamentalism. Instead, they provoked what will be their inevitable defeat. Where once they flourished in shadow, now the whole world is aware of the deadly threat they pose, and is co-operating in stamping it out.

Indeed, September 11th was an enormous tragedy - but it also brings with it an opportunity. The opportunity to exorcise the ghosts of fundamentalism by dealing terrorism world-wide a decisive blow. The opportunity to craft a new Partnership between the West, Russia, and Central Asia. And the opportunity to develop a new, more mature relationship between cultures.

These are ambitious goals - but we have already begun to meet them. Our success in defeating the forces of terrorism, and in building new bridges of peace, will be a fitting legacy to the victims of September 11th.

Thank you.

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