Updated: 05-May-2003 NATO Speeches

Washington D.C.

5 May 2003

“NATO and Ukraine’s Contribution
to Building Peace and Security”

Opening Remarks by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson
leading into module at the NATO Ukraine Consultations

Thank you very much, John. Let me also extend a warm welcome to all the participants in today’s meeting, and especially to our Ukrainian friends.

My remarks are intended to set the scene for today's conference, and more specifically to address the topic of our first module, "NATO's and Ukraine's contribution to building peace and security".

A great deal has happened since we held the last round of NATO-Ukraine consultations, in Berlin in March last year.

2002 turned out to be NATO’s year of transformation. The year in which in Reykjavik, Rome, Prague and Brussels we developed and agreed the blueprint for a new Alliance.

We launched the biggest round of enlargement in NATO’s history.

Brought down the final curtain on the sterile divisions of the Cold War by creating the NATO-Russia Council.

Set NATO at the centre of collective military planning and preparation to meet future terrorist attacks.

Put an end to years of debilitating theological disputes on whether NATO could act “out of area”.

Committed nations to transform their armed forces and made radical reforms to NATO’s political structures.

And broke a longstanding logjam which had blocked progress on closer relations with the European Union.

Having passed our theory test with flying colours in 2002, we are putting the new NATO into practice in 2003.

Completion of the arcane, but vital Berlin Plus arrangements has enabled the European Union to take over the small peacekeeping operation in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (1), with NATO support. This is a major step towards our goal of genuine strategic partnership.

NATO’s Prague Capabilities Commitment and our new Response Force, together with the EU’s Headline Goal, are making good progress in producing real improvements to European capabilities. But we must all continue to deliver concrete results, not rhetorical white elephants.

After a blaze of negative publicity, NATO’s precautionary deployments to Turkey to meet our Washington Treaty obligations turned into a minor success story: the Alliance doing its job of protecting its members effectively and without fuss.

Last month, with considerably less publicity, we agreed that NATO should from the autumn take responsibility for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. This was another watershed moment, perhaps as important as NATO’s first involvement in the Balkans.

So, only months after Prague, we are putting the new NATO blueprint into practice. And doing so when received wisdom is that transatlantic differences on Iraq make consensus on other issues impossible.

Indeed, it is now quite natural for NATO Foreign ministers to look beyond Afghanistan to a possible role for the Alliance in post-conflict Iraq, as they did last month, although without any commitment at this stage.

All of this is pragmatic multilateralism in action by an Alliance that has adapted, and is now demonstrating that it can deliver when the going is at its toughest.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

NATO-Ukraine cooperation also rank high among the Alliance’s strategic objectives.

It is no secret that our relations have been through a rather difficult year. Fortunately, much of that uncertainty has receded because the Ukrainian Government has made a determined effort to push ahead with its drive for Euro-Atlantic integration.

The continued Ukrainian commitment to our joint peacekeeping efforts in the Balkans and in the fight against terrorism – to witness, for example, the deployment of a NBC defence unit in Kuwait – are not the only proof for that. It has also done so by agreeing a new NATO-Ukraine Action Plan in Prague last year. By setting out – in consultation with the NATO Allies – clear objectives in an Annual Target Plan. And by seeking to ensure oversight and coordination in meeting these objectives through the National Centre for Euro-Atlantic Integration.

Defence reform remains a critical element in this entire process.

With the help of the NATO-Ukraine Joint Working Group on Defence Reform, considerable progress has been made in making Ukraine’s defence planning and budgeting processes more transparent, and in enhancing democratic control of the military. There has also been encouraging progress in enhancing interoperability between Ukraine and NATO armed forces – an effort which benefits from the cooperation of our forces on the ground in the Balkans.

A particular recent success is the broadening of the security sector reform process to include Ukraine’s border guards. This shows the potential of our Joint Working Group in focussing the expertise of specific NATO member countries on key reform issues – ensuring coherence, and avoiding any unnecessary duplication of efforts.

The focus on the border guards also indicates that Ukraine is responding to NATO’s calls for a comprehensive approach to security sector reform. Ukraine needs to streamline not only its armed forces, but its border guard and interior troops as well. And to gear these forces to a security environment in which Ukraine has little to fear from its neighbours, but must come to grips with different, non-conventional security threats such as terrorism and organised crime.

We welcome the growing recognition on the part of senior decision-makers in Ukraine that the Ministry of Defence cannot be solely responsible for defence reform.

Over the last year, much effort has gone into establishing a management and coordination structure to take defence reform forward. This inter-agency approach will be essential in managing the consequences of defence reform.

I am delighted to learn that the first Partnership for Peace Trust Fund project to destroy 400.000 anti-personnel landmines will be completed later this month in Donetsk. The project is ahead of schedule, within budget, and has had no accidents.

A second project, led by Greece and supported by Turkey and Germany, aims to destroy 133000 tons of munitions and 1.5 million small arms and light weapons.

These are only two examples. Ukraine faces similar challenges in housing and retraining of personnel and base closures. No Ministry of Defence could manage and fund a transition of this scale on its own.

As a former Minister of Defence, I welcome the growth of inter-agency cooperation in Ukraine. I hope that Mr Marchuk will be able to bring us up to date with the defence review, which I know is being worked upon across Government, and on evolving plans for force reductions.

All these developments point towards a much more realistic appraisal of the problems at hand, and a much more determined effort to tackle them. It is crucially important now for Ukraine to get the plans right, and to bring them in line with the financial resources it plans to allocate to the armed forces.

Then, of course, comes the most difficult part: implementation of the plans – showing political courage and determination – and staying the course.

The time for political declarations is over, and Ukraine must now take action to implement the commitments it made in Prague. As before, the NATO Allies remain committed to helping wherever they can. But the overriding majority of items in Ukraine’s Annual Target Plan require Ukraine to take decisive action first, if Allied support is to have any effect at all.

I am glad that, despite this frantic pace of work, so many of our Ukrainian friends who are key players in the defence reform process are able to be with us today.

We now have an invaluable opportunity to discuss key issues with them at an especially critical juncture. In particular, how they intend to increase the pace of defence reform; what the current state of affairs is with regard to the planned defence review; and where they think the NATO Allies can be of further assistance in taking defence reform forward?

We have a heavy agenda before us, so without more ado I give the floor first to Yevgeni Marchuk, before we move to Don Rumsfeld, who will soon join us.

  1. Turkey recognises the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name

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