Updated: 17-Feb-2003 NATO Speeches


17 Feb. 2003


by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson
to the Bulgarian Parliament

Prime Minister,
Members of Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good day. I am delighted to be here in Sofia and to have the honor of addressing the Bulgarian Parliament.

This is not my first trip to Sofia, nor is it my first opportunity to speak in this illustrious House of Parliament. But in a very real sense, this is a ground-breaking visit. Because it is my first visit as Secretary General to a country that has successfully made the transition from Partner to Invitee – a country that will very soon become a full member of the Atlantic Alliance.

Let me begin very simply, by saying: congratulations. The invitation issued to Bulgaria at the Prague Summit is a full vindication of the vision of those who have, for years, seen Bulgaria’s future in NATO. It is a testament to the hard work put in by good people across Bulgaria’s political spectrum and society to make that vision a reality. And it reflects very clearly the progress this country has made, in a relatively short period, towards meeting NATO’s political and military standards.

The Prague Summit was therefore a historic step for this country. The invitation to join the Alliance is a milestone in Bulgaria’s integration in the Euro-Atlantic family of nations.

It was an equally important day for the Alliance. For in inviting seven countries to join in 2004, NATO has moved decisively to make real a long-standing goal of the Alliance: to create a Europe truly whole and free, united in peace, democracy and common values, from the Baltics to the Black Sea.

So Prague was truly a transformational Summit, for NATO’s members, for the invitees, and for the wider Euro-Atlantic community. But let there be no doubt: those who think that Prague marked the end of the road are mistaken. It was not the end of the road, for Allies or for invitees. It was a beginning. A beginning of a rigorous and challenging period of transformation that will require enormous efforts from us all.

The requirement for change is clear. The post September 11 security environment is more fluid, more unpredictable, and in many ways more dangerous that any of us would have predicted a decade ago.

More acts of terrorism. More threats from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. More instability. More ethnic strife. And, in an increasingly globalised world, fewer ways to seal ourselves off from these threats, and their effects.

In such a security environment, there is no room, and no time, for complacency. NATO must be fully modernised, fully prepared and fully equipped to ensure our security. And all NATO Allies, both old and new, must play their full role, and carry their full share of the burden.

Making that transformation was the key challenge that NATO faced leading up the Prague Summit. And many doubted that the Alliance could meet it.

They were wrong because Prague was a turning point for NATO. Historians will look back on the period from September 11th to the Prague Summit as a time when the Alliance fundamentally reoriented itself, and set out a blueprint for NATO’s future – with new policies, new capabilities, and new ways of doing business.

Three new policy changes define the 21st Century NATO. First, the Alliance will take on terrorism, head on.

The importance of NATO playing a role is clear. This is not a purely military coalition. But the Alliance binds Europe and North America together in this common, long-term struggle. NATO is a vital forum where intelligence is shared within the Euro-Atlantic community. And only NATO can marshal and prepare the full military might of so many democracies – Allies and Partners - to be able to disrupt, deter and defend against terrorism.

The second policy shift complements the first. At Prague, NATO’s nations also agreed that the Alliance will be better prepared to defend against weapons of mass destruction.

Again, the logic is clear. Al-Qaida demonstrated that there are those who will use these terrible weapons, if they get their hands on them. And since September 11th, the examples of proliferation have simply multiplied – from North Korea’s withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty, to the discovery of chemical weapons in a London apartment.

The continuing crisis over Iraq’s disarmament demonstrates how central this issue has become to our security, and indeed to international stability. Which is why NATO, as the principal security organisation in the Euro-Atlantic area, must and will get engaged in defending against the threat of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

The third policy change is equally important in gearing NATO towards the future. Last year, NATO’s nations agreed that, in the face of such new threats, old and artificial geographic restrictions on NATO’s area of operations make no more sense. Indeed, they are foolish, if they prevent us from taking action in the face of clear and present danger. That is why the Alliance agreed that, henceforth, NATO’s forces should be prepared to go wherever they are required, and to defend against threat from wherever they may come. The old “out-of-area” debate is dead.

Taken together, these are three major policy shifts. But policies are simply empty words if there is no capability to back them up. And NATO has never been about empty words. NATO delivers on its promises. Which is why the Alliance is undergoing a tremendous transformation of its capabilities as well.

Prague set in train a number of dramatic changes. First, a new NATO Response Force was launched, to have an initial operating capability by 2004, if not earlier. It will bring together the best forces in the Alliance, from both sides of the Atlantic, into an elite and fast-moving force – a force to which Bulgaria may well be a contributor, after joining the Alliance.

NATO’s nations have also agreed what we call the Prague Capabilities Commitment, or PCC. The PCC is very simple and very clear. Each of NATO’s members is making clear pledges to make specific improvements, on a national basis, to their capabilities, in four key areas: interoperability, strategic transport, high-technology, and WMD protection. This is where NATO needs to make immediate improvements, and the PCC sets out a realistic blueprint.

Prague also set out a blueprint in another area: how to make the most of European defence budgets. Today, NATO Europe spends about 150 billion Euros on defence. That is an enormous amount of money, and it is an amount set to rise as the seven new members join. But it is clear that Europe is not getting 150 billion Euros worth of defence from that expenditure. And in a time when money is tight and the threats are real, we simply must deliver effective defence in an affordable way.

That is why NATO members are looking at innovative new ways to get more bang for the buck – innovations which will be of interest to new members as well. For example, pooling defence procurement to buy more at a lower price. Sharing key joint assets, such as transport aircraft and air tankers. And role specialisation, whereby countries unable to afford the full spectrum of military capabilities are looking to specialize in one area where they can make a strong contribution. Other NATO members are looking at similar roles. Invitees should do the same.

New policies, and new capabilities. That was the blueprint laid out at Prague. But blueprints must still be made into concrete and steel. All members of the Alliance will have to work hard, and make some difficult decisions, if we are to deliver the promise of Prague.

Invitees face a double challenge. They must continue, and enhance, their own political and military reforms, which have helped them to achieve so much success until now. And at the same time, they must prepare to jump onto a moving train – because NATO’s transformation is both fundamental and moving fast.

I cannot overestimate the importance of continuing reform by invitees. As I said earlier, we have entered a new security era, where very real, and very deadly threats can strike at anytime. Defending against these threats requires the full participation, and a real contribution, from the entire Euro-Atlantic community.

NATO membership brings with it enormous privileges. A seat at the table where key decisions are taken to shape Euro-Atlantic security. A role in the planning and conduct of major military operation. And the ultimate security guarantee of Article 5 of the Washington Treaty.

But with privileges come responsibilities. New members must play a constructive role within the NATO Council, helping the Alliance to arrive at consensus. They must be able to make a real and significant military contribution, in partnership with their NATO Allies. They must fully meet the political standards which make NATO a true symbol of cooperation, democracy and peaceful relations. And they must be able to do so as quickly as possible.

For all these reasons, Bulgaria and other invitees will continue to work through the Membership Action Plan, to make the necessary reforms in key areas. On the political front, these include judicial reform to improve the impartiality of the judicial system; combating organised crime and corruption, which can undermine democracy, and spread to neighbouring countries; ensuring firm export controls; and working for the integration of minorities, to ensure social peace.

At the same time, invitees must also continue to implement reforms on the military front. Most importantly, out-of-date heavy metal armies must be down-sized and modernised, including through the development of modern planning and budgeting systems. The security of classified information must be guaranteed, and the people handling that information must be fully cleared to receive it. And sufficient resources must be devoted to all of these reforms, if they are to be fully successful.

This may seem a daunting list. But I know that these reforms can be achieved.

First, because I have seen the progress that has already been made, in Bulgaria and in the other six invited countries. A decade ago, no one could have imagined that so much political, economic and military reform could have been accomplished. But it has. And that effort has delivered enormous results, to the invitee countries and to NATO. That kind of track record encourages confidence in future progress.

The second reason is because Bulgaria is demonstrating a will, and growing capability, to make a real contribution to international security. In the Balkans, Bulgarian troops have played a valuable role. Across the Black Sea region, Bulgaria is encouraging cooperation and dialogue in addressing the area’s many security challenges. In combating terrorism, Bulgaria has made a valued contribution to the battle against Al-Qaida and the Taliban. And now, as a member of the UN Security Council, this country is playing an important role in international efforts to ensure Iraq’s disarmament.

This is a record of constructive engagement – and it inspires confidence in Bulgaria’s future role as a NATO Ally.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

You will have been following the debates in Brussels on when to begin planning to provide NATO defensive support to Turkey to deter and defend against a potential threat from Saddam Hussein.

Until late last night, I feared that debate would force me to postpone this visit. I am delighted that we reached consensus and that I was able to be here today.

Some people had started to say that this issue showed that NATO was in crisis. They were wrong.

The Alliance is not and never has been monolithic. All Allies have strong views and express them robustly. But they all agree that the Washington Treaty is an absolute commitment. They are all pledged to assist Turkey. The debate was not on whether to act but when.

Last night we decided that the answer was that now was the time to begin planning.

What you have been watching is a unique process in consensus building. Consensus is not always easy to achieve. But it is vital to NATO’s cohesion and effectiveness.

And I look forward to the day in the near future when Bulgaria will join us in making this process work.

Thank you.

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