Updated: 09-Dec-2002 NATO Speeches

At The European
Business Club,

9 Dec. 2002

"Russia: Security and Prosperity on the European Continent in the 21st Century"

Speech by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson

Ladies and Gentlemen,

When Nikita Khrushchev visited Italy in 1967, he met with politicians. But very soon, he demanded to see businessmen instead. His reasoning was clear and simple. "You politicians change all the time. I want to talk to businessmen, because they stay in power."

As always, Khrushchev tended to exaggerate a little. But there is a kernel of truth in his remark. Building up and running a successful business is a long-term affair. It requires a vision, and it requires a lot of persistence in implementing this vision.

Running a successful business requires yet something else, however: security. Only in a secure and predictable political environment can business flourish and prosperity grow.

It is the job of politicians, and of our military and police to create such an environment. It is their mission to protect us from immediate threats, and to give us the long-term security that we need to allow people like you to take care of our economic well-being. Security and prosperity are very closely linked, "two halves of the same walnut", as Americans call it.

But how good are we at protecting our security in a time where our security environment is so rapidly changing? How can we provide the long-term stability we so urgently need in an era that some have labelled "the age of terrorism"? After what happened in New York, Bali, here in Moscow, and now in Kenya, can we be sure that our strategies and forces are up to the job? Do we feel confident that the money we spend on our armed forces is spent for the right kinds of forces? In short, do we get the security we pay for?

You all know what my answer will be. We are not fully up to the job. Neither the current NATO members, nor those who will join in the future, nor Russia. We are all facing a new, dangerous security environment, with armed forces that still bear the signature of the Cold War.

We need a major transformation - in our thinking, in our policies, in our military capabilities. And when I say "we", I mean both NATO and Russia. We need to fully realise that the world has changed, that there are new risks and new threats which require very different responses. In a sense, we must behave like shrewd businesspeople: make an analysis of the changing market, and then design the right product.

What does this mean in terms of our security?

It means, first and foremost, that we must no longer cling to the past. And that applies very much to NATO. Had the Alliance remained focused on the threats of the past, it would long ago have withered away.

But NATO has changed over the past ten years. It has reached out to new partners in Europe in a co-operative and trusting way. It has given a secure home to new democracies. It has helped to bring peace to the Balkans, in cooperation with Russia and others. And it is now redirecting and restructuring itself to take on new threats such as terrorism and weapons of mass destruction – threats which pose a direct threat to us all.

But as NATO is changing, so too must the NATO-Russia relationship. Yes, NATO and Russia did have a troubled past, we all know that. 40 years of antagonism is a long time indeed. These years have shaped perceptions of each other that are very difficult to shed. And so, even after the Cold War had ended, we remained prisoners of these old images.

For a long time, we continued to concentrating on our differences rather than on the things we had in common. We argued about Kosovo, about Chechnya, or about NATO enlargement, instead of looking at the future challenges we would have to face together.

We were talking to each other in the out-of-date, but familiar concepts and familiar terminology of the Cold War. We focused primarily on how we might keep a closer eye on each other, rather than determining how we could join forces more effectively in facing the threats we all face.

Only when the World Trade Centre collapsed did we realise how irrelevant our arguments had been. We knew then that we could no longer afford to search for the key of NATO-Russia relations in the wrong places. We had to throw the old baggage overboard once and for all.

If we were to allow outdated stereotypes to continue to dominate our relationship, the only winner would be Osama Bin Laden.

Have we achieved a change in our mutual perceptions? Have we thrown the old psychological baggage overboard? Perhaps not entirely, but most of it is gone.

For example, only completely paranoid people in Russia could seriously argue today that NATO enlargement is about "encircling" Russia. And you will find no one in NATO who would advocate putting nuclear weapons or massive conventional forces into the new NATO members, in order to defend against some imaginary Russian threat.

Which, to me, shows that the first step of our transformation -- the psychological transformation -- has already succeeded.

The second step of our transformation was equally clear: Once we had pushed the past out of the way, we needed concrete mechanisms for our cooperation in future. We needed solid ties, so that we can define the new challenges together, and come up with common responses.

Here too we have already achieved our aim. Last May, at a special NATO-Russia Summit in Rome, we inaugurated the NATO-Russia Council or NRC. In the NRC, Russia sits at the table as one of twenty equal partners, seeking common solutions to common problems. NRC working groups on terrorism, proliferation, peacekeeping, theatre missile defence, defence reform, civil emergencies and airspace management cooperation provide a structure within which our experts can develop common responses to the most pressing security threats of our age.

Significantly, no longer is Russia counted among those threats. Instead, she has assumed her rightful place as an indispensable part of the solution. Hardly a day goes by in Brussels when a NATO-Russia meeting at some level – Foreign or Defence Ministers, Ambassadors or political counsellors, military representatives or experts takes place. They break old taboos and new ground in ways that make all of us just a little bit safer.

Indeed, radical change is now so unremarkable that we often do not do enough to explain to our publics exactly what is happening.

The climate of our work has changed outside the meeting room as well. I will today meet today with President Putin for the second time in three weeks, and with Foreign Minister Ivanov for the third time in the same time.

This morning, at the General Staff, Defence Minister Ivanov and I opened a high-level seminar where our senior military leaders are examining the role military forces can play in the struggle against terrorism, the second such event this year. In fact. The very frequency and informality of our meetings is indicative of the very active and constructive role Russia plays in the NRC.

But we do not delude ourselves that all our problems are over. The third phase of transformation will be even more demanding. That is the transformation of our armed forces, producing the kind of forces and capabilities we need to face the very real threats of today and tomorrow. This is daunting challenge -- for NATO nations and Russia alike.

As with some NATO countries, Russia has oversized armed forces. These forces were organised and equipped for World War Three. These forces are out of place in today's world. Too big, too expensive, a burden on our economies. And, most importantly, they are not giving us the security we pay for.

We must downsize these forces, to make them more affordable. At the same time, however, we must structure, train and equip the smaller forces so that they can perform modern missions, such as combating terrorism, or joint and combined crisis management operations. This means fewer conscripts and more professional soldiers. It means fewer tanks and more precision-guided munitions. And it means greater use of multinational forces, that take advantage of national capabilities. Here, Russia – and in particular Russian industry – clearly have a role to play.

As a former defence minister, I am under no illusions about how hard this will be. We are talking about profound structural changes to very large, and very expensive organisations. And defence reform carries with it both political and social implications.

As UK Defence Secretary in the later 1990s, I led an exhaustive review of defence requirements. When we figured out what we needed, I had to find the people, the equipment and the money to meet those requirements, within a seriously constrained budget. And we had to deal with the consequences of our action: the need to take care of redundant service members, for example. But it worked. At the end of the day, we had leaner, more effective and more cost-efficient armed forces.

To me, this was a salutary experience. It proved to me that change is possible if there is the vision and persistence to push it through. And just two weeks ago, I felt vindicated in my optimism once again. At NATO's Prague Summit, an entire Alliance demonstrated a firm commitment to change and transformation.

We agreed to take in new members. We took on new missions, including defence against terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. We launched a major modernisation of our military capabilities. And we strengthened our partnerships with friends across the Euro-Atlantic area.

We are under no illusions about the many obstacles we still need to overcome. Nor are we under any illusions about the financial and other burdens this transformation will entail. But the decisions we took at Prague were a clear sign that NATO has understood the urgency of developing new instruments to meet new threats.

We all know that, given the size of Russia and its armed forces, the transformation challenge your country faces is an order of magnitude greater. You, like us, face serious resource constraints, and there are many competing demands on your state budget. But although defence reform is painful, it is also essential. Russia needs armed forces and police forces that work, and that are cost-effective.

That is in Russia’s interest. It is also in NATO’s interest, so that our partnership can become even more effective. And reform must take place soon. Delay only adds to the cost.

In approaching this challenge of military transformation, Russia will need to find its own distinct approach, tailored to its own unique circumstances. But that does not mean that Russia must face these challenges alone. In going through their own transformation, NATO nations have gained valuable experience, which they are ready to share with our Russian friends. Russia could certainly benefit from our individual and collective experience. There is no need to re-invent the wheel.

But what does all this mean for you, the businessmen and entrepreneurs? It means, first and foremost, greater security. Because NATO and Russia together will achieve much more than each of us could achieve alone. It means more long-term stability. Because close and trusting NATO-Russia cooperation will remove much of the unpredictability of our previous relationship.

There will be more tangible benefits as well. One of the most important keywords of tomorrow’s security environment will be interoperability – the capacity for forces of different nations to carry out a single mission in a complementary fashion. It is a principle NATO has pursued for years, and one in which Russia has gained significant experience serving alongside NATO forces in the Balkans.

Now, in the NATO-Russia Council, experts are promoting enhanced interoperability between NATO and Russian forces in every conceivable area: from peacekeeping contingents to missile defence systems, from civil emergency response units to heavy air transport and air-to-air refuelling.

This drive toward interoperability will, in the long run, help to keep Russian military industries competitive. It does not require a keen business mind to recognise that the transformation of the Alliance initiated at Prague, far from creating a threat to Russian interests, will in fact create additional opportunities for military-technical cooperation.

Enhanced cooperation will also have a ripple effect well beyond the armaments industry. Because a closer NATO-Russia relationship means a closer relationship between Russia and the West. Where political and military relations improve, trade and investment are not far behind. Continuing progress in other key areas -- such as land reform, measures to stimulate the small business sector, and tax reform -- will help ensure Russia profits from an improving security environment. A secure, prosperous Russia, fully engaged in economic and security cooperation with her Western partners: that is our common goal, and we have made an excellent start together.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

If I was to characterise NATO-Russia relations in business terms, I would say that we are still in the investment phase, but we can see that the revenues will soon start pouring in. Or, to use a stock market analogy, if there were shares in NATO-Russia relations, I would be investing. Because NATO-Russia cooperation is one of today’s true growth industries. Thank you.

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