Updated: 10-Oct-2002 NATO Speeches

NATO-Russia Council and
Defence Reform

NATO Defense College, Rome

10 October 2002

Keynote Address

by NATO Deputy Secretary General
Ambassador Alessandro Minuto Rizzo

Minister Kudelina
Generals, Admirals,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am speaking to you today on behalf of Secretary General Lord Robertson, the Chairman of the NATO-Russia Council, who sends you his best wishes for a successful conference. Let me tell you that, as an Italian, it fills me with great pride that NATO and Russia are able, yet again, to move their relationship forward by meeting on Italian soil -- thanks of course to the hospitality of the NATO Defense College, for which I wish to thank Lieutenant General Raffenne and his staff.

Less than five months have passed since our Heads of State and Government met, not far from here, to launch the NATO-Russia Council, and to open a new chapter in the NATO-Russia relationship. During these months, we have made enormous progress. Meetings have taken place at all levels – Ministers, Ambassadors, political advisers, and experts. Numerous working groups in different areas have been created, and a range of expert meetings have been convened -- all to transform the political message of our Rome Summit into practical cooperation on key issues.

Defence reform is one of those key issues – an essential area for future military cooperation. It is an issue on which we have briefed each other, at different levels, and on a number of occasions, over the past couple of years. The challenge, now that we have our new NATO-Russia Council in place, is to no longer simply brief each other, but to start working together. To tackle the issue of defence reform in a way that is open-minded, constructive, and to our mutual benefit.

The objective, for every one of our nations, is clear enough. We all need armed forces that are appropriately sized, trained and equipped to deal with the full spectre of 21st century security threats. Large, immobile and heavy forces, designed for traditional territorial defence, are simply not what we need today. Not only do such unwieldy forces fail to fulfil the military tasks we demand of them. They are also -- to put it quite bluntly -- a waste of money. They are a burden on our economies, at a time when we all face many competing claims on limited resources.

Modern-day military forces must be small and mobile. They require high-tech capabilities in order to prevail with the minimum number of casualties. They need to be able to deploy quickly to trouble spots, and to stay there as long as necessary to get their job done. And that means they must be able to rely on an adequate support structure, as well as on relief or reinforcement as circumstances may require.

Moreover, if all this isn’t enough, our militaries must also have one other vital characteristic. They must be able to operate within a multinational command and force structure, and this places a premium on interoperability. In any modern operations – whether humanitarian relief, peace support, or counter-terrorism -- militaries from around the world must be capable of working together seamlessly. We see this in the Balkans, where troops from every one of our nations, as well as many others, have been operating very successfully for a number of years already. And we also see it in Afghanistan.

NATO nations have been hard at work to adapt their militaries to these changing challenges and requirements for the better part of the last decade. We all undertook to review our defence establishments and force structures. We devised and implemented a new command structure for the Alliance. We used the Partnership for Peace to promote the ability of Partner forces to work with our own militaries on new missions and multinational operations. And we agreed, in Washington in 1999, both a new Strategic Concept, and a Defence Capabilities Initiative, to help guide our efforts.

Then, of course, came 11 September 2001. It was a great shock to us all. A shock that made NATO nations realise they had to again shift gears. And that is precisely what we have done. By taking yet another close look at our concepts, procedures, structures and capabilities. And by examining how they should be further adapted to meet the new challenges posed by terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. Our upcoming NATO Summit meeting, in Prague next month, will show that the Allies recognise their responsibilities in this regard, and are determined to meet them successfully.

Having said this, shouldering the burden of security in the Euro-Atlantic area is a common effort, which stretches well beyond the membership even of an enlarged Alliance. We need -- and we want -- Russia to be with us as we face this challenge. To that end, we must reform our armed forces toward the same goal. We have watched with great interest reforms announced in Russia. We clearly have not seen the end of it. And we would like to make our accumulated knowledge and know-how available to assist Russia, in the best way we can, in defence reform. We must, therefore, move forward with a meaningful dialogue on military reform, to learn from each other’s experience, and have confidence that we all have the right capabilities to face together the threats of today and tomorrow.

The NATO-Russia Council provides us with a good venue to share and use the experience of NATO as an organisation, and on a national basis, and learn from each other’s experiences in the area of defence reform.

NATO itself as an organisation is not in the business of national defence planning. There is no single proven model that we implement, let alone a magic formula for pain-free reform. We do have considerable expertise, however, in helping our member countries determine the forces needed to implement Alliance policies, coordinate national defence plans, and establish force goals that are in the interest of the Alliance as a whole. And we think Russia may benefit from this kind of knowledge and experience as well.

But again, there is no single blueprint, and there cannot be one. Because NATO Allies, like Russia, are sovereign and independent nations, with their own cultural, political and military traditions. This means that several Allies have retained quite unique features in the way they organise their militaries. It also means that, over the years, many of the Allies have gone through their own and specific experiences in adapting their militaries to changing requirements, and in dealing with the political, economic and social implications of such reforms in their respective countries, under different circumstances.

There is nothing wrong with such individuality, as long as it is accompanied by transparency. Transparency vis-à-vis domestic audiences, who pay for and make up our armed forces, and thus are entitled to accountability. Transparency vis-à-vis fellow Allies, in order to preserve the necessary degree of interoperability with their forces. But transparency also vis-à-vis other nations, in order to dispel any mistrust they might harbour, to build trust, and to build confidence.

So bilateral and multilateral exchanges should go hand-in-hand and ensure that we all achieve our goals of downsized armed forces, restructured defence establishments, redefined military tasks and modernised equipment to meet tomorrow’s challenges together.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Defence reform is a complex process, with potentially far-reaching consequences – military personnel lose their jobs, bases are closed, surplus military equipment has to be converted or destroyed. But defence reform is also a crucial imperative, for every one of our nations. Because it goes right to the heart of our ability to deal with modern-day security challenges. And that makes it a crucial area for NATO-Russia cooperation.

In essence, NATO-Russia cooperation on defence reform is an exercise in transparency and openness. An exercise in putting problems on the table, and examining how we can learn from each other. An exercise in sharing our experiences, our expectations, perhaps even our frustrations. And an exercise, therefore, in building confidence between us, and in promoting the interoperability of our forces and strengthening the NATO-Russia relationship.

We have an interesting programme ahead of us today, which I think will help us to make progress in all these areas. I thank you for your attention, and look forward to a stimulating and productive meeting.

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