Updated: 08-Nov-2002 NATO Speeches


8 Nov. 2002

“The Future of a Larger NATO”

Speech by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson
at the EPC Breakfast Policy Briefing

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to be here, because I am a great believer in the potential of breakfast meetings. Just three years ago, the only contact of any kind allowed between NATO and the European Union was a breakfast that I shared once a month with Javier Solana. And even that had to be described as an “informal breakfast”!

But look at where we are today. Increasing NATO-EU relations at all levels, from meetings of ministers to an excellent daily cooperation on the ground in the Balkans, which helped solve difficult and potentially dangerous crises in Southern Serbia and FYROM1. And soon, permanent and formal relations on defence cooperation. Quite a transition.

Today, we have a valuable opportunity to discuss the future of Euro-Atlantic security, and NATO’s role in it. Because both are undergoing dramatic, even historic, transformation.

I know that it is has become almost a truism to say that security has changed since September 11th, 2001. But a truism is no less true for repetition. It is undeniable that we now face grave new threats to our security. The most obvious is terrorism.

September 11th, 2001, was a dramatic wake-up call. It showed us that terrorism has mutated, like a virus. It has grown beyond the boundaries of states, into a global network. It has gone beyond narrow political goals to pose a threat to our people, wherever they may be, our institutions and even our culture. It has surpassed the capacity of any individual state to tackle it alone. Terrorists are not ten feet tall. They can be defeated. But we must face the fact that this cruel genie cannot be put back in the bottle.

The second threat is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear. Quite simply, more countries are acquiring them. North Korea’s admission that it is developing nuclear weapons, in brazen defiance of its stated and legal commitments, is just the latest evidence of nuclear proliferation. Iraq continues to develop biological and chemical weapons, and is looking for nuclear capacity. Stockpiles of ex-Soviet fissile material are too loosely guarded, and radiological material turns up on the criminal black market in Germany and elsewhere. The examples go on and on, and they are chilling.

September 11th 2001 made this much more than an academic problem. Al-Qaida proved to even the most sceptical that there are people fanatical and homicidal enough to use such weapons. Weapons of mass destruction in the wrong hands are a clear, real danger to our safety, and to the stability of the international system. And we cannot be confident that these weapons are not already in the wrong hands, or will become so in the foreseeable future.

A third threat is more traditional, but has even graver implications today. It is the collapse of failed states.

Conflict zones, from the Balkans, to the Caucasus and Central Asia to Africa, have become centres where terrorists find recruits. Where organised crime traffics drugs and weapons. Where loss of state control can mean loss of control over lethal weapons themselves. Where wars can spill over to destabilize entire regions. In essence, failed states can easily become the breeding ground of the new viruses which threaten our safety today.

Terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, failed states: I have painted a dark picture of the threats we face. But I have never been a pessimist. We can shape our security for the better -- and we will face this new, more unpredictable future with a transformed, more effective and more robust NATO.

I am sure you are all aware that in exactly two weeks, NATO’s Heads of State and Government will meet in Prague for their first Summit meeting since 1999. At that meeting, they will approve a range of profound adaptations to the way the Alliance does business. Adaptations which will ensure that NATO – a transformed NATO – will remain a solid foundation to defend, and to build our security in this new, more unpredictable world.

First, NATO is developing the capabilities it needs to take on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. We must be able to deter, disrupt and if necessary defend against future attacks. Joint plans are being developed. Intelligence sharing is being improved. Our militaries are developing their capacities to defend against terrorism, including by supporting civilian authorities in case of attack. They are also improving their ability to detect and defend against WMD attack. Vaccine stockpiles are being developed. And NATO will be working much more closely with countries across Europe and into Central Asia, to coordinate and improve our collective efforts against these threats.

We are also modernizing our forces overall, so that they can go to wherever they are needed, when they are needed, and stay as long as they are needed. At the Summit, NATO’s nations will make clear, specific commitments to make improvements to the military capabilities we need today. Long-range air lift. Air tankers. Better surveillance. Precision guided weapons, to prevail with the minimum casualties on all sides. Modern, secure communications. And, as I mentioned, protection against weapons of mass destruction.

These are just some of a huge range of improvements that will be agreed at Prague. Taken together, they will ensure that we face the security threats of the 21st century with the most modern, most effective military capacities possible.

And we will tackle these new threats with more than just upgraded defences. We will also face them as part of a broader and more united political community.

First, NATO itself will be larger. At the Summit, up to nine countries will receive invitations to join the Alliance, and the accession process will begin – to be complete, most probably, by 2004.

I don’t want to go into the technicalities of accession with you now. But I do want to stress the benefits of this enlargement, particularly in parallel with EU enlargement. Because I feel that the long term effect on Euro-Atlantic security could hardly be more positive.

Through this dual enlargement, democracy in new member countries will be reinforced, because these countries will no longer be on the periphery -- they will be fully part of a democratic community. Economic prosperity will have every opportunity to flourish, because the security provided by NATO will underpin the benefits provided by the EU’s markets. And profound NATO-EU coordination in promoting European security will be natural, even an imperative, as common membership in both organisations becomes the norm.

For all these reasons, enlargement will shape Euro-Atlantic security for the better. It will ensure that Europe’s stability grows and deepens. And it will greatly increase the family of democracies able and willing to defend our common interests and common values. We can see the proof today in Afghanistan, where future NATO members are making important contributions to our common fight against Al-Qaida. These, too, are reasons for confidence as we face a more volatile and uncertain future.

But this larger, more effective NATO will not be alone in preserving our common security. At the Prague Summit, our Heads of State and Government will also recognise another historic reason for optimism – the new security relationship between NATO and Russia.

NATO has engaged Russia in a new Council that provides for substantial cooperation in a whole range of issues that matter to us all – terrorism, proliferation, missile defence, and peacekeeping, for example. Russia’s voice is heard, and listened to. So is ours, in Moscow. We are learning to trust each other, and to work together.

That is a huge step forward. We are already engaging Russia’s cooperation in dealing with the immediate security threats we face today. Recent history proves the value of this cooperation. And the long-term benefits could be even greater. Because deepening trust and more robust cooperation between NATO and Russia will, over time, become less of an effort and more of a habit – and then simply a reflex. The benefits to Euro-Atlantic security are clear, and we are already firmly on the right path.

A NATO with new roles. More effective military forces. More members. And deeper Partnerships. Together, a strong recipe for greater security in future. A recipe that needs only one more ingredient – strong, and reshaped, transatlantic relations for the 21st century. And Prague will deliver that vital ingredient as well.

Of course, North America and Europe will not always agree on everything. But at Prague, the two sides of the Atlantic will agree on a common assessment of the threats we face. They will agree to take on new missions, such as the fight against terrorism, that matter to both Europe and North America. They will agree to develop modern military forces , including a rapid Response Force that will bring together the best military capabilities of Europe and North America -- to fight together against common threats.

They have agreed that those forces should be able to go where they are required, when they are required. And we are putting in place innovative ways to ensure that Europe’s 150 billion Euro defence budgets deliver 150 billion Euros worth of capability, and political influence. This will help to balance security burdens more fairly – and fairer burden sharing will be a key test of the long-term health of the transatlantic relationship.

Taken together, these changes amount to a dramatic overhaul of the transatlantic relationship. An overhaul, which will go a long way to ensuring that NATO remains relevant to both sides of the Atlantic. It will also ensure that Europe and North America will continue to meet, together, the common threats and challenges we will face in future – and that they will do so with the most effective, the most modern, the most relevant military forces.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I said earlier that I not a pessimist. Indeed, I am an optimist – but a prudent optimist.

Yes, we face grave new threats. Yes, we must meet daunting challenges. And no, it will be neither free nor easy to defend our common security.

But I am confident that we can, and will meet these challenges. Because we know what it takes to defend our security, and our values, in this dangerous new world. Cooperation, across the Atlantic, across Europe and beyond. Investment in the capabilities we need to face 21st century threats. And determination to take resolute action, when we must.

The Prague Summit will prove that NATO is up to the challenge. With new membership, new missions and new military capabilities, NATO's transformation will make a quantum leap forward. And as a result, the Alliance will remain an essential pillar of our security, today and tomorrow.

Thank you. I am ready to answer your questions.

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