Updated: 07-Oct-2002 NATO Speeches

At the
Ceremony of
the Royal
Defence College,

7 October 2002

"NATO: Breaking New Ground"

Speech by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson

Your Royal Highness,
Minister Flahaut
Generals, Admirals,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased indeed to be here today, at the opening of the academic year of the Royal Defence College.

I place particular importance on today's event because the relationship between Belgium and NATO is a special one. This country has generously hosted the North Atlantic Alliance for thirty-five years, almost to the day (NATO Headquarters moved to Brussels on 16 October 1967), here in Brussels and in Mons. And the Belgian Armed Forces have made a strong and consistent contribution to NATO's operations throughout the Alliance's history.

But the relationship between NATO and Belgium is much more than a practical one. Generations of NATO staff from all NATO nations have served here. Many have fallen in love with the country. Quite a few have made it their permanent home. So the ties that bind NATO to Belgium are emotional as well.

In sum, the relationship between NATO and Belgium has been both enduring and positive. That is why I am so pleased that our relationship is set to continue. With the assistance of the Belgian Government, we will be building a new headquarters for NATO, across the road from the existing one. This is a reflection of the long-term vision of the Belgian government, and its enduring commitment to the Atlantic Alliance. For both of these, I thank you and congratulate you.

The new Headquarters is, however, more than a reflection of Belgium's commitment to NATO. It is also a symbol of the renovation taking place in the Alliance itself. Construction workers may not yet have broken ground on Boulevard Leopold III for the new building, but we are already breaking new ground in building a new Alliance.

Our forthcoming Prague Summit will be, in a very real sense, the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new, transformed Alliance. This November, NATO's Heads of State and Government will approve the Prague Capabilities Commitment to provide the Alliance with crucial new military capabilities. They will set the seal on a package to transform NATO's contribution to the war against terrorism, and to improve our ability to defend against weapons of mass destruction. They will issue invitations to new democracies to become full members. And they will deepen and adapt the practical and political relations that the Alliance has with countries across Europe and beyond.

Let me give you an idea of what all this means in practice. First, NATO's capacities against terrorism will be enhanced. NATO is not, and will not be, solely about terrorism. But NATO is about security, and we are in an age where terrorism has metamorphosed from 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 measures under development will help the Alliance play that role. A military concept for defence against terrorism, which will give guidance to NATO's military planners, is under development. Intelligence sharing is being beefed up. And NATO is looking at developing critical capabilities required for deterring terrorist activities and potential attacks, and for countering them if they occur.

This complements a second area of improvement: protecting ourselves against weapons of mass destruction. September 11 demonstrated beyond a doubt that there are no limits to the level of casualties that vengeful fanatics such as Al Qaida are striving to inflict. And what we now know about rogue leaders such as Saddam Hussein and the dangers of proliferation means that we must be prepared to deal with chemical, biological, radiological or even nuclear weapons in very dangerous hands.

The Alliance is taking significant steps forward in meeting this threat as well. Our soldiers will be better equipped and trained to deal with attacks by weapons of mass destruction when they deploy on missions. They will also be better able to support civilian authorities if such attacks were ever to take place on home soil. And NATO is developing collective capacities, including mobile detection teams, mobile expert response teams, and vaccine stockpiles.

These are only some of the measures under discussion. Those agreed among the nations will be presented, as a package, to our Heads of State in Government in Prague.

This counter-terrorism package will be part of NATO's broader new effort to make across-the-board improvements to its military capabilities.

The requirement for improvements is clear, and I am sure that this audience does not need convincing. To meet 21st century threats, and to manage effectively more traditional challenges such as regional conflicts, we need new kinds of capabilities. Lighter, rapidly deployable forces. With modern, secure command and control, so that they can work together effectively. With high-tech capabilities such as precision-guided munitions, to prevail with the minimum number of casualties. With protection against weapons of mass destruction, so that they cannot be held hostage to the whim of a madman with chemical, biological, radiological or even nuclear weapons.

The Summit will make real and substantial progress on developing these capacities. Nations will make clear commitments, to develop specific capacities, within defined time-frames. The commitments will have the public backing of all 19 Heads of State and Government, which is the best possible way to ensure that we get the results we need.

At the same time, we will look at innovative new ways to get the most bang for the defence Euro, for example through role-specialisation for smaller countries, joint procurement projects, or pooling of assets. And now, as you have undoubtedly read, there are intense discussions under way to create a new NATO Response Force to bring together the most capable and advance forces within the Alliance to react rapidly and effectively to security threats.

These measures to beef up NATO's capabilities are varied and complex, but they share a common element: they are practical and they are achievable. They can deliver, and deliver soon. Another reason why Prague, where these improvements are to be set in train, will be a transformational moment for the Alliance.

Prague will be transformational in a second major way as well. At the Summit, NATO's Heads of State and Government will issue between one and nine invitations to countries wishing to join the Alliance as full members.

NATO enlargement means the definitive end of Europe's Cold War division. NATO membership locks in the progress that these countries have made in political, economic and military terms. And it will spread the burden of security on more shoulders. That is why the enlargement process will take another decisive step forward at Prague.

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. This is why a third element of NATO's agenda, at Prague, will be to enhance and adapt the Alliance's political and military Partnerships with countries across Europe and into Central Asia.

Over the past decade, NATO's Partnership initiatives have paid off their investment many times over. The Partnership for Peace Programme 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.

Hand in hand with a redefinition of Partnership is a continuing redefinition of NATO's relationship with Russia.

September 11th 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. This is not a rhetorical flourish. It is practical cooperation on vital security issues.

A new forum for this cooperation, in which we can decide and act with Russia "at 20", is already up and running. We are already discussing how to cooperate on issues of common interest, such as terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, theatre ballistic missile defence, and search-and-rescue at sea. And we intend to go further -- to work constructively together on all the issues where we have what President Putin calls "the logic of common interests".

Of course, NATO and Russia will not always agree. But we need 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.

Last, but certainly not least, a few words on NATO-EU relations. This relationship is tremendously important for our future safety and security. Last year, NATO and the EU, acting together, avoided a civil war in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia(1) . We got engaged before CNN told us to become engaged. This was conflict prevention at its best. Throughout the Balkans, our two organisations are working together efficiently and effectively towards a common goal.

As one of the godfathers of the St-Malo agreement which launched the European Security and Defence Policy, I truly believe that there is potential for more. We must make an additional effort to build solid arrangements for NATO-EU cooperation on crisis management. In particular, we must resolve the issue of providing NATO assets and capabilities as well as planning support for EU-led operations. Such an agreement would be a win-win outcome for both organisations and for all Europeans.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have, I hope, demonstrated that Prague will be a real "Transformation Summit" for the Alliance. 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. And it will fine-tune NATO to pursue its wider agenda: creating long-term stability in the Balkans; helping to overcome Europe's Cold War divisions by offering membership and enhancing partnership; drawing Russia closer to the Alliance; and improving defence capabilities.

This is a comprehensive and substantive agenda for change. Which is why Prague will not only break new ground for the Alliance. It will also ensure that NATO can continue to play, into the future, the role it has played for the past five decades - as the key foundation for Euro-Atlantic peace and security. Thank you.

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

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