Updated: 15-May-2003 NATO Speeches

At the French


15 May 2003


by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here once again. I last visited Armenia just over two years ago. At that time, I stressed the dangers posed by new security threats, and the importance of cooperation between countries in defending against them. But to many in Europe and beyond, that message was not yet understood.

How times have changed. On 11 September 2001, with the terrorist attacks in the United States, the security map was redrawn. All like-minded countries of the world were suddenly engaged in the same struggle – combating the menace of terrorism. Cold War dividing lines became, in an instant, irrelevant.

Today, the Caucasus region is seen for what it is: an area of crucial importance to our common security. In facing the threats of terrorism, proliferation, and regional instability the countries of the Caucasus are front line states. They are also important partners in finding common solutions to these deadly challenges.

NATO recognised this fact at our Summit meeting in Prague last November. We set out a vision of deeper cooperation between NATO and our important partner countries of this region – including, of course, Armenia.

NATO’s Partnerships have always been based on one guiding principle: that security is built with one’s neighbours, rather than against them. And that principle is increasingly embraced across this continent, and even beyond.

In fact, our Euro-Atlantic Partnership has surpassed the expectations of even those who came up with the idea, a decade ago.

Euro-Atlantic Partnership has provided added momentum to the reform processes in many Partner countries, including concerning the practical questions of how to organise and control military forces in democratic countries. It has helped us get to know each other, and to work together in operations such as in the Balkans.

The practical pillar of our Partnership is what we call PfP – the Partnership for Peace. Armenia was one of its first members.

We have also engaged in partnership at the political level – through the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. The EAPC is where the 46 member countries come together around the same table, as equals, to have a structured dialogue on virtually all issues of common concern.

Since its creation, the Partnership has been a success. But past success is not enough. To meet the security challenges of today, our institutions have to adapt.
And NATO is taking that lesson to heart: for itself, and for our partnerships as well.

NATO has long ceased to be solely the Cold War shield of Western Europe. In the last 15 years, it has broken the barriers which divided the Euro-Atlantic area, and helped spread the values of peace and democracy. It has brought peace and stability to the Balkans, ending civil war in Bosnia, halting ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and forestalling conflict in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia . And it has built strategic partnerships with the European Union and Russia.

In Prague, we transformed NATO for its next challenges : dealing with 21st century threats from wherever they may come. That means being able to take on terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and the consequences of instability. It means modern and effective armed forces. And it means realising the potential of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership as the world’s largest permanent coalition. This is not rethoric but reality.

Just a few weeks ago, we decided to take over the command of the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul. And back in Brussels, we are now looking at how NATO might help to bring stability to post-conflict Iraq.

But as we reorient NATO to deal with new security threats, we do not forget our long-standing objective of building peace and stability throughout the Euro-Atlantic area.

As I am sure you know, at Prague, we invited seven countries to start accession talks with the Alliance. If all goes well, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia will join NATO as full members in May of next year. This will consolidate Europe as a common security space from the Atlantic to the Black Sea, and from the Baltic to the Balkans.

It will be a giant step forward. But it will not be the end of the process. NATO's door will remain open for additional new members in the future.

At the same time, the Prague Summit adopted a transformed Partnership scheme which can be better focused on the needs of our individual Partners.

Some Partners may want to go beyond the steps I have already mentioned. They may want deeper bilateral security cooperation with NATO. NATO stands ready to respond to these requests. Thus the first element of our new Partnership is Individual Partnership Action Plans.

These new, deeper partnerships have real potential. If they are realistic, comprehensive and results-oriented, they can deliver real progress, for NATO and Partners alike. And they reflect a fundamental truth – that the challenges faced by the Euro-Atlantic community, including by this region, can only be met through cooperation.

Second, NATO and its Partners will work more closely together in enhancing regional cooperation.

I understand the difficulties involved in promoting cooperation in this region. But I believe that the results would be worth the effort. NATO Allies see regional cooperation in the Caucasus as an important step in building the confidence necessary for the countries concerned to address their common security issues.

But of course, regional cooperation cannot occur in a vacuum. Pressing, outstanding issues must be addressed at the same time. There is simply no way around this fact. For this region to enjoy the stability, prosperity and integration its people deserve, regional cooperation must go hand-in-hand with real dialogue on key bilateral security issues.

Let me be clear. NATO cannot and will not claim a leading role in facilitating the peace processes in this region. That responsibility rests first and foremost with the parties of the region themselves.

However, it is also evident that there will be no comprehensive settlement of the disputes in the region without the participation of the region's major powers -- including, of course, Russia. We hope, and expect, that NATO's deepening relationship with Russia can help, fostering a true spirit of cooperation in this region.

Just last Tuesday, 20 Ambassadors of NATO nations and Russia had an historic first meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in Moscow. After only one year, NATO countries and Russia have achieved enormous progress in building practical cooperation on the pressing security issues we all face today. NATO and Russia have decisively moved beyond old antagonisms to address their common challenges together. This is the spirit we need to deal with the broader challenges of this region.

The third element of our new Partnership is the Partnership Action Plan against Terrorism. Already, many Partner countries have contributed enormously to the fight against terrorism, including by providing transit to the forces fighting Al-Qaida and the Taliban.

But terrorism is a long-term threat, requiring long-term cooperation. The Action Plan provides for just that. We will enhance our political consultation on this threat. And we will develop practical programmes to combat it.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am not naïve. I know that this region faces great internal challenges. And I know that it will take a great effort from us all, over a very long period, to defeat the threats of terrorism, and proliferation, and so many others.

But we can make progress – a step at a time. Through political consultation. Through assistance for democratic reform. Through practical military training and cooperation. And through honest, profound dialogue. And we stand ready to do just that : moving forward, together.

Thank you.

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