Updated: 21-Nov-2002 NATO Speeches


21 November


by The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom,
The Rt Hon. Tony Blair MP

The future of NATO

1. NATO is the key transatlantic guarantee of security for its members, and the ultimate guardian of the values enshrined in the Washington Treaty of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. It embodies the transatlantic link which is essential to peace and security. Here at Prague we must work together to ensure that an enlarged Alliance, with the Article 5 commitment at its core, remains the basis for our collective security against the new threats of the 21st century as it was so successfully during the 20th.

NATO Enlargement

2. I am delighted that we are issuing invitations today to Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. This round of enlargement is a significant contribution to European security, and secures the place of the new Allies in the Euro-Atlanuc community. I know that the new Allies and NATO have made great efforts over the past three years to prepare for this enlargement under the Membership Action Plan. I am delighted that Britain has been able to make a significant contribution to helping with preparations and I extend a warm welcome to the new Allies as they prepare for accession.

3. It is essential that our new Allies continue with the reform and investment during the accession process. Existing Allies will be shouldering new commitments today and new invitees must likewise make their forces ready to contribute to all Alliance missions. This round of enlargement will not be the last. NATO's door must remain open to others ready for the responsibilities of membership. Britain will continue to help those who aspire to membership. NATO must continue to provide incentives for reform and the prospect of eventual membership.

NATO transformation

4. The attacks of 11 September, and those since in Bali, Moscow and elsewhere highlight the threat to our values and peoples from terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. We must adapt accordingly, providing the maximum protection for our people while preserving the values which terrorists seek to destroy. In this struggle, NATO's responsibility is clear.

5. This Summit presents us as Allied leaders with a unique opportunity to transform NATO. We know what is required. NATO forces must be flexible and agile, able to deploy rapidly to wherever they are needed. They must be able to sustain themselves
for as long as is it takes to achieve their objectives, operate in hazardous environments, and use their technological advantages to defeat their opponents at minimum cost. We must give them the tools to do the job we ask of them.

6. Lord Robertson rightly identifies our three key objectives:

  • First, we must have the right military capabilities so that forces from both sides of the Atlantic can train and operate together. This means new resources, focussing on the core capabilities roost needed against the new threats. We European Allies have a particular responsibility to invest more in modem equipment, which we know we must have to counter these threats.

    No country in Europe can provide everything the Alliance needs. This is a collective endeavour. The Prague Capabilities Commitment gives us the right framework. It is up to us to deliver. I give you my promise that Britain will do so.
  • Second, we need the NATO Response Force, able to deploy troops quickly to fight and win. I am grateful to the US Administration for putting forward this excellent proposal. Again, we as Europeans have a responsibility to put in the resources and the commitment to make it a reality.

  • Finally, NATO needs command and force structures adapted to fulfil its new missions, not those of twenty years ago. Our endorsement today of the work being done to give NATO new command structures is a crucial step.
    NATO's organisation and procedures at Headquarters need to reflect our priorities. I welcome and fully endorse Lord Robertson's plans for internal reform.

7. The transformation of our Alliance is a bold step. We agree on the ends; now we must provide the means. We will rightly be judged on results, not on the commitments we make today. When we next meet in eighteen months time, we must be able to point to concrete achievements.

8. NATO's founders had an unprecedented vision of how free nations could work together in the common cause of freedom and democracy. Some might question whether NATO can still play that vital role. I believe it can. Together with our new Allies and our renewed Alliance, we can be confident that we are ready to meet the many challenges we face.


9. The Rome Summit in May marked a transformation in the relationship between Russia and the Alliance. The NATO-Russia Council has got off to a good start with real achievements in the fields of counter-terrorism, peacekeeping, theatre missile defence and defence reform. The Council provides us with the basis for a fundamental change for the better in European security. I am delighted that the Council will be meeting here tomorrow at Ministerial level. We must all commit ourselves to developing the relationship to the full, to the benefit of all.


10. Partnership has been one of the Alliance's great successes, encouraging defence reform, transparency and stabilisation to NATO's east and south. I look forward to meeting our Partners at Summit level at the EAPC tomorrow. We must commit ourselves to adapting our relations with our Partners to reflect the challenges of the new security environment. This will involve identifying areas where practical co-operation can make a difference ~ for example, in countering the terrorist threat, promoting security sector reform and improving border control.

11. Stability to NATO's south is increasingly important to the security of Europe. I welcome NATO's efforts to build on the progress already made through the Mediterranean Dialogue, and to focus on practical projects with Dialogue partners on the southern shore of the Mediterranean.


12. The decisions we are taking today will change our Alliance. We will be judged on results, not the commitments we make today. When we next meet we must be able to points to concrete achievements: an organisation where seven new members are fully integrated and making a real contribution; where the Prague Capabilities Commitment will have delivered real assets; where the NATO Response Force can deploy quickly and effectively, controlled by the new Command Structure; and where co-operation with Russia through the NRC and with Partners through the EAPC will enhance the ability of all of us to work together against common threats.

13. Making all this happen will demand commitment and resources from all Allies, new and old alike, as well as from our Partners, Russia and others who share our interest in peace and stability. But the prize will make the effort worthwhile: a revitalised Alliance, equipped and prepared to defend our collective security for future generations.


Go to Homepage Go to Index