Updated: 16-Sep-2002 NATO Speeches

At the IFRI
12 Sep. 2002

"Euro-Atlantic Security one Year after 11 September"

Speech by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson

Mesdames et Messieurs,

Tout d'abord, permettez-moi de remercier l'Institut français des Relations internationales pour son invitation à m'adresser à vous aujourd'hui.

Il y a un an et un jour, le monde a changé et c'était pour moi une évidence de faire aujourd'hui avec vous un bilan de la sécurité dans la zone euro-atlantique un an après les événements tragiques du 11 septembre 2001.

Ces derniers jours, les médias ont consacré la majorité de leurs émissions ou articles à la commémoration des attaques terroristes du 11 septembre. Cette couverture massive est tout à fait légitime et compréhensible.

Les anniversaires nous permettent de reconsidérer des événements majeurs; d'analyser leurs conséquences; et d'en tirer les leçons pour l'avenir. Et sans aucun doute, le 11 septembre fut un jour lourd de conséquences pour l'Histoire.

En premier lieu, le 11 septembre a été une tragédie pour des milliers d'hommes et de femmes.

Nos pensées vont à tous ceux qui ont péri, qui ont été blessés ou qui ont perdu des parents ou des proches dans ces tragiques attentats. Nous devons également nous rappeler combien les services de secours et tant de personnes qui ont risqué leur vie ont été courageux.

Bien sûr, le terrorisme existait avant le 11 septembre. Tous nos pays en ont souffert. Et la France n'a pas été épargnée.

Mais, jusqu'au 11 septembre de l'année dernière, le terrorisme restait avant tout un problème national, dont s'occupaient en priorité les services de police. Et les groupes terroristes avaient des objectifs politiques et des liens internationaux relativement - je dis bien "relativement" - limités.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

September 11th crossed a threshold and took terrorism to a whole new level.

First, in the space of hours the attacks killed thousands of people, citizens of over 80 countries. They caused immeasurable destruction in the heart of one of the world's biggest and most important cities.

They called into question political relations and ways of doing business that had assured our security for decades. And they created a sense of insecurity in everyone throughout the civilised world.

Equally important, these were not the attacks of a small group trying to achieve limited goals. This was the work of a global network. Loose knit but well financed, well organised, operating in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the United States.

A network with global, and cataclysmic aims. To ignite a jihad. To stampede the west into a withdrawal from the world. To advance the cause of a radical, regressive and repressive form of fundamentalism.

In sum, on September 11th, terrorism became not only a threat to national security but also a threat to international stability. And it reached such a level of violence and threat that all parts of government and society, including the military, must be part of the response if we are to defend ourselves successfully.

Despite the scale of the threat, the international community's response over the past year gives real ground for optimism.

If we did not foresee Al Qaida's attacks, neither would we have foreseen the extraordinary coming together of the international community, initially in common grief and outrage, then in solidarity against the terrorists and their backers to counter the first great international challenge of the 21st century.

The unique coalition assembled so patiently and skilfully by the United States has proved both effective and durable.

It has also justified the confidence of those who have argued that international organisations work, not only in peace but in crisis too. The UN, the EU and NATO, together with other regional organisations, have all played vital roles in the war against terrorism.

A war in which, as Secretary Rumsfeld memorably said, people in pinstripe suits and programmers' grunge would be as important as those in military camouflage.

The success of the coalition over the past year in Afghanistan and beyond has not, could not, guarantee that all potential attackers have been deterred. The threshold we crossed on September 11 took us into a new world from which there is no going back.

But we have demonstrated to Al Qaida, other terrorists and their backers, and to rogue regimes that if they embark on attacks of that kind, the international community has both the will and the means to make them pay a disproportionate price for what they do.

I have no doubt that Bin Laden's planners did not envisage in their worst nightmares that their atrocities would result in the toppling of their Taliban hosts in Afghanistan and the smashing of their terrorist cells across the world. A coming together it was and not a clash of civilisations. Or the diplomatic rapprochement between NATO and Russia that led to the establishment of the NATO-Russia Council.

Deterrence against terrorism can never be complete. We have nonetheless raised the threshold once again.

From the outset, NATO has been a key part of the international campaign against terrorism. The fundamental purpose of the Alliance is what it has always been - to preserve the security of NATO members. Since terrorism is now a threat to international security, the Alliance must bring its unique tools and resources to bear.

NATO is the world's largest permanent coalition. Everyone knows this but many sometimes forget its implications.

NATO's 19 member countries from North America and Europe stand together in common defence of their values and interests. But NATO's diplomatic influence goes well beyond the boundaries of NATO's member states. Another 27 countries throughout Europe and Central Asia are now close partners with NATO on a wide range of political and military cooperation.

There is no comparable body anywhere else on this planet.

September 11 galvanized NATO into active support for the United States. Within 24 hours, the 19 Allies invoked for the first time Article 5 of NATO's founding treaty, declaring that this was an attack not just on the United States but on all 19 members.

And I believe this was a profoundly important symbol of political support; of what Article 5 was about. There was no hesitation, no equivocation. The test of a relationship is in difficult times, and the transatlantic relationship passed that test.

Equally important, Article 5 was also a warning to the terrorists that they had crossed a line of unacceptability.

A day later, the 27 Partner countries followed with their total support. These were the essential building blocks in assembling the global coalition, including in the vitally important Central Asian region where they mattered most.

Did Article 5 trigger a massive, overwhelming ground war led by the Alliance, as foreseen during the Cold War? Of course not - because the Cold War is long past, and we are in a new world and we are facing new threats.

Article 5 was invoked first and foremost to demonstrate, to the United States and to the rest of the world, that in time of crisis, the Atlantic community stands together.

We may bicker about steel, or hormone implants, or even the International Criminal Court, but in times of need, we are brothers in arms. Article 5 was proof positive of that fact.

Diplomatic support was, of course, never going to be enough to win this struggle. This was an armed attack - even if the missiles were jet-liners. And an attack of that nature required a military response, not least to prevent it happening again.

Here, too, NATO has played a role only the Alliance could play. The invocation of Article V was not only a declaration of solidarity - it also laid the groundwork for the support provided to the United States by NATO as a body, and by individual Allies as well.

The Alliance is still the world's most effective military organisation. All modern military operations have to be multinational, from the Gulf War through Bosnia and Kosovo to Afghanistan.

NATO takes the lead in some cases, gives support in others, and provides a common platform for working together whenever its member countries deploy armed forces.

In the immediate wake of September 11, intelligence sharing between Allies within NATO was stepped up.

Essential logistic support was provided to coalition operations in Afghanistan.

NATO's airborne warning aircraft spent months helping to protect US cities and indeed the winter Olympic games against further attacks.

In the Balkans, NATO forces smashed dangerous Al Qaida cells.

And NATO ships are still patrolling the Eastern Mediterranean to interdict terrorists and their supply links.

Individually, 14 NATO Allies have forces directly involved in operation "Enduring Freedom" in Afghanistan. Special Forces Teams from the UK, Norway, Germany, Denmark and Canada have worked closely with US forces. Planes and ships from Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain and the UK conduct surveillance, interdiction and interception operations.

NATO nations are also at the core of the 4,500 strong peacekeeping force now helping to ensure security in and around Kabul. At the end of June 2002, the UK handed over to Turkey the command of the International Security Assistance Force. Belgium is providing airlift, the Czech Republic a field hospital, Portugal a medical team, and Poland engineering and logistics support.

Both operations -- ISAF and Enduring Freedom - work not only because NATO nations are contributing forces, but because they know how to work together.

Decades of joint training, and of developing interoperable military capabilities, make it possible for NATO forces to integrate and cooperate with each other seamlessly and quickly. These operations show just how important that remains.

No other organisation in the world could have provided this kind of strong and sustained assistance. I have got absolutely no doubt that without NATO's direct and indirect contribution, the campaign against terrorism would not have been anything like the success that it has been.

But remember, we have to remember that the war is not over. The civilised world must prepare for a long and painful struggle to vanquish terror. We must protect our new found unity and protect the values which the terrorists seek to destroy.

That means that we must all stay the course. In Afghanistan, for example, the international community must ensure that stability, fundamental human rights, and eventually prosperity take hold.

This is the best way to ensure that Afghanistan does not once again become a haven for terrorists. It is also the least the people of that troubled country deserve, after all that they have suffered.

We must also stay the course in the Balkans. Terrorists and criminals flourish in chaos and instability, and we must ensure that South-East Europe does not become their second home. The Al-Qaida cells broken up by NATO forces in Bosnia in recent months demonstrated that the danger is very real.

That being said, I believe that the Balkans region is headed steadily in the right direction: towards deepening stability, increasing democracy, and growing prosperity.

The best signal of the progress made is that these countries have offered strong, unwavering support in the campaign against terrorism. Nothing could indicate more clearly the value of their integration into the Euro-Atlantic community.

It is precisely for that reason that NATO's enlargement process will go forward this November when, at their Summit in Prague, NATO's Heads of State and Government will issue invitations to one or, as many, as some of the nine aspirant countries.

The logic is clear. Through the enlargement and accession process, NATO encourages reforms that help to stabilise aspirant countries, and help them work co-operatively in security with NATO members. By formally taking in countries that meet NATO's standards, the Alliance locks in that stability, while at the same time broadening the permanent coalition of democracies that the Alliance embodies.

Finally, we must stay the course on our new relationship with Russia. The past year has sparked a much deeper, more trusting relationship between Russia and the West. To build security effectively in future, we must ensure that that new relationship delivers.

On September 11th, President Putin was the first world leader to call President Bush. He recognised instantly that this was a knife at all of our throats, and that we had to put aside old grievances and outdated prejudices.

Since then, Russia has offered unstinting support for the campaign against Al-Qaida, including through the exchange of top-level intelligence.

In so doing, Moscow made two things very clear. First, President Putin believes - as we do - that Russia's future lies in Europe. And he is willing to take courageous steps to lead his country in that direction.

Russia's strong contribution over the past year also illustrates how positive an influence Russia can have on Euro-Atlantic security, when it chooses to participate in a co-operative way.

It was in recognition of Russia's desire to work with the West, and our collective interest in having this new relationship deliver, that we set up this new NATO-Russia Council which I chaired just a few months ago. The new council has a simple premise - that we trust each other enough to develop joint and co-operative positions on a range of issues where we know we can do business.

Its potential is immense. A qualitatively new security environment where Russia sees itself as fully part of the Euro-Atlantic community, and works trustingly with her NATO partners to meet those common security challenges.

But staying the course on our existing agenda is not enough. We face new threats, such as terrorism and weapons of mass destruction - and we must take active steps to meet them.

The threat posed by terrorism needs no further explanation. We must also prepare to defend against biological, chemical, radiological and nuclear weapons, which give terrorists and rogue regimes the capacity to cause even greater havoc than they did on September 11 last year.

This is not a theoretical menace. These capabilities already exist in the hands of people fanatical and homicidal enough to use them.

To meet these new threats, and to manage effectively more traditional challenges such as regional conflicts, we need new kinds of capabilities. Our military must be better able to defend both themselves and our civilians against weapons of mass destruction. They must also make a bigger contribution to dealing with the consequences if attacks are successful.

Just as important, to deter potential attackers and prevent terror being launched against us, they must be equipped and trained to mount complex operations over long distances, in difficult country, and for prolonged periods.

You cannot defend cities now on national frontiers. It's not realistic to think in these terms any more.

So we need lighter, more rapidly deployable forces. Forces available at short notice. Forces with modern, secure command and control, so that they can work together effectively. Forces with high-tech capabilities such as precision-guided munitions, to prevail with the minimum number of casualties.

France is better placed than most European Allies in these respects. But all of us need to do better still if our militaries are to deal effectively with today's threats.

We have already made a good start in NATO, as indeed has the European Union with whom we are coordinating our efforts. This forthcoming NATO Summit in Prague in November will make concrete progress on developing key capabilities.

Nations will make clear commitments to develop specific capacities within defined timeframes. And the commitments will have the public backing of all 19 Heads of State and Government, which is in the political world the best possible way to ensure that we get the results we need.

A stronger European contribution to defence is in the interests of all Europeans, to protect our people and our interests. It will also ensure that Europe and North America can continue to work together in defence and security.

Accusations about US unilateralism will become a self-fulfilling prophecy unless we ensure that Europe can make a more equal contribution to combined operations. More defence spending, targeted in the right way - along with more defence industrial co-operation - is the only solution.

I therefore warmly welcome President Chirac's recent commitment to increase the French defence budget.

The importance of addressing the capability gap cannot be overstated. NATO works politically because it can work militarily. All the Allies consult in NATO, and work for consensus, because burdens and costs are shared once the decisions they are all taken.

Preserving that level of daily, substantive consultation - which, in a transatlantic context, occurs only in NATO - requires that all Allies, on both sides of the Atlantic, continue to pull their full weight.

Healthy transatlantic relations also require that we move forward in formalising and developing the permanent relationship between NATO and the EU.

The importance of that could not be more clear. Over the past year, NATO and the EU have consulted and co-ordinated closely in the struggle against terrorism, to ensure that the full range of diplomatic, political, justice and military tools are brought to bear in the most effective way.

The two organisations are also co-operating effectively in the Balkans, for exactly the same reason. I work closely with Javier Solana, not least in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia(1) , where consideration is also being given to an EU successor to NATO's current task force, once these permanent relations are in place.

The time frankly is long past for NATO and the EU to establish closer, more permanent relations. The potential is absolutely clear. The path ahead too is clear. To make the most of the resources available to the Euro-Atlantic community, to best ensure our security in future, it is time to turn the key.

Mesdames et Messieurs,

Les leçons définitives du 11 septembre seront tirées par les historiens du futur. Mais je crois que nous pouvons d'ores et déjà voir quelle voie suivre.

Pour préserver notre sécurité au XXIè siècle contre des défis multiformes et des menaces nouvelles, nous devons garder le cap des succès que nous avons accumulés jusqu'à présent.

Nous devons acquérir les nouvelles capacités nécessaires pour combattre les nouvelles menaces.

Et nous devons construire de nouvelles relations entre les pays et entre les organisations internationales, pour maximiser les actions de la communauté internationale.

Voilà un agenda complexe et ambitieux. C'est vrai. Mais, nous avons bien commencé. Et la réussite est notre seule option.

Merci de votre attention. Je suis prêt à répondre à vos questions.

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

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