Updated: 14-Oct-2003 NATO Speeches


13 October 2003

NATO’s Transformation

Remarks by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson
at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour for me to speak at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy. In less than ten years, this Centre has established a truly outstanding academic reputation. I am pleased that NATO has been associated with this work.

It is also a great pleasure to be in Switzerland today. Switzerland is an important Partner of NATO. Its contributions to Euro-Atlantic Stability are much appreciated.

Two weeks ago a Swiss KFOR helicopter, operated by an extremely professional Swiss crew, flew me from Skopje to the village of Tearce. This village was in the centre of a potentially bloody crisis in Macedonia(1) in 2001. My visit to what is now a beautiful and peaceful community showed how successful NATO, and latterly the EU, have been in using military presence to pre-empt bloodshed and civil war. It also showed that Switzerland has become an important part of our efforts to spread peace and stability in place of internal strife.

We still have much to do in the Balkans. But compared to the violent years of the 1990s, the region has been transformed.

So, indeed has NATO. In the past decade, and especially in the past two years, there has been nothing less than a revolution in the way we view, prepare for, and respond to risks and threats to our security.

This process of transformation will continue to unfold over the months and years ahead. It will enable NATO to continue to ensure Euro-Atlantic security.

This is not undue optimism on my part. NATO has put last spring’s differences across the Atlantic and among Europeans over Iraq behind it. Instead of picking over old wounds, we have taken on new tasks, in Afghanistan and Iraq. And we have got down once again to the task of turning the rhetoric of transformation into reality.

Last November’s Prague Summit was the defining step forward in NATO’s transformation. It confirmed a new transatlantic consensus based on fundamentals that unite the two sides of the Atlantic. It set out a transatlantic blueprint to meet the security challenges of this new century – with new members, new missions, new capabilities, and new partnerships. Our next Summit in Istanbul next year will consolidate and continue NATO’s transformation.

NATO’s transformation is based on the foundations of the unique partnership between Europe and North America. A partnership born in common philosophies of freedom and democracy, and forged in half a century’s fight againt tyranny. A partnership which today stands as a beacon of democracy, toleration, plurality, openness and order in a world faced by extremism and instability. It is a partnership which confronts and overcomes temporary differences.

From these firm foundations, the first pillar of our transformation is the Alliance’s biggest ever expansion. Seven new members will join NATO next year.

All seven recognised the values of membership of the world’s most capable and credible security organisation. They have all worked very hard to implement difficult political, economic and military reforms. They have made real contributions to our collective efforts to ensure our safety and security. Prague recognised their efforts. Istanbul will seal their full accession.

Together with the expansion of the European Union’s membership, NATO’s enlargement will consolidate Europe as a common security space, from the Atlantic to the Black Sea, and from the Baltic Sea to the Balkans. It will be a giant step forward. And NATO’s door will remain open to additional new members in the future.

The second pillar of transformation is NATO’s new missions. The NATO of the 21st century is committed to tackle today’s new security challenges: terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and failed states. We are determined to deal with these challenges from wherever they arise.

We are showing this determination with our leadership of the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, and our support for Poland and Spain in post-Saddam Iraq – both complex operations, well beyond our traditional boundaries. As a result, theological arguments about whether NATO could or should operate outside Europe have been confined to the dustbin of history.

There is no doubt that Afghanistan is a big challenge. NATO nations are all too aware of the difficulties, even as we consider an expansion of the air presence beyond Kabul. However, this Alliance has never failed. It is not about to start now.

The third pillar is a fundamental transformation of NATO’s military capabilities. 21st century threats cannot be defeated by 20th century armies. So we are implementing a radical overhaul of our military command structure to make it leaner and more flexible.

We are creating the cutting edge NATO Response Force, to be able to react quickly to the most demanding threats to our security. We successfully exercised this new capability at the informal NATO Defence Ministers’ meeting in Colorado Springs last week. And each of our members is committed to developing specific capabilities that are essential to modern military operations.

Throughout my tenure as Secretary General I have pushed hard – and with increasing success – for major improvements in NATO’s capabilities. I am continuing to push just as hard now for our Governments to realise that if they do not also have deployable and useable forces we will have major diffficulties in meeting our incresing commitments.

There is only one pool of forces in Europe. If our Governments continue to take on new commitments around the world, they must improve the usability of their armed forces. Today, the 18 non-US NATO Allies possess 1.4 million regular soldiers and 1 million reserves. But with only 55,000 troops currently on operations, many of them say they are over-stretched. If so, then they are wasting their tax payers’ money. So vastly improved usability is my strong message to NATO Government.

It is also a message that I repeat to our Partners, like Switzerland, who are increasingly working with us to face the challenges to our common security. Is territorial defence really relevant in the middle of 21st century Europe? Surely security is better ensured by dealing with threats at their source rather than on our doorsteps?

This brings me to the fourth pillar of NATO’s transformation, our network of partnerships throughout the Euro-Atlantic area.

Even the world’s most successful Alliance cannot, and should not, work alone. To face transnational threats, we need the broadest and most effective web of cooperative relations. NATO’s 46-nation Euro-Atlantic Partnership provides just that.

Our Partnership has already been a great success. When NATO first promoted the idea, at the beginning of the 1990s, there was some scepticism and criticism.

But we pushed ahead. Throughout the 1990s, we gradually developed the core mechanisms for Partnership to function. We launched Partnership for Peace, a practical tool for defence cooperation. We created the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, a forum that brings together all Partnership members around the table with NATO members. The response from our Partner countries was overwhelming.

Partnership has been tremendously valuable, first of all, as a political instrument. By engaging in discussions at the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council we have learned from each other. We have shared insights on common security challenges, such as the Balkans, Afghanistan and terrorism. We have built confidence between us.

Together, we have fostered a Euro-Atlantic security culture. A genuine pre-disposition to tackle common problems by working together. At no time did this become more clear than in the days following 11 September 2001, when all our Partner countries expressed their full solidarity with the the US, and undertook to exploit with NATO the potential of the Partnership in the fight against terrorism.

Switzerland has taken a keen interest in Partnership. It has taken the lead in fostering cooperation in critical areas such as International Humanitarian Law. It has also supported Civil Emergency Planning activities with partners, including consequence management in the context of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Of course, being pre-disposed is one thing, taking action quite another. Here too, Partnership has made a real difference. Partnership for Peace and its Planning and Review Process have been critical in developing greater interoperability between Alliance and Partner forces.

Again, Switzerland contributed to these efforts, including through this Centre and the Centre for Humanitarian Demining.

Improved interoperability has allowed many of our Partners to make valuable contributions to NATO-led operations. Partner nations have integrated so much and have taken so great responsibilities that, for example, Sweden will soon take over the leadership of a multi-national brigade in the Kosovo Force, from Finland.

The International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan is another case in point. Soliders from 14 NATO and 14 Partner nations, including Switzerland, work side by side and risk their lives to help this war-torn country to get up on its feet again. They are there because all of us agree that todaay’s security challenges must be confronted at their source. We know that if we abandon the people of Afghanistan and allow the country to again become a failed state, the risk from mass terrorism, will increase enormously. And the opportunity to prevent Afghan opiates from being sold on our streets will have been wasted.

No, I did not fly in a Swiss helicopter when I visited Kabul last month – not this time anyway. But Switzerland already makes sizeable donations for the reconstruction of Afghanistan. The revitalisation of the economy is ultimately what will determine Afghanistan’s future as a self-sustaining peaceful country.

Partnership has also played an increasingly important role in helping Partners with democratic reform and the establishment of effective institutions. This includes the challenge of bringing security services and military establishments under democratic control. It also includes assisting in downsizing large and inefficient military establishments and in re-educating redundant personnel.

Switzerland has been very interested in assisting other Partners through mechanisms available in the Partnership. The Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces has been very helpful. Switzerland is also a key contributor, under the PfP Trust Fund, to projects to destroy Anti-Personnel Landmines and munitions in Albania.

These contributions are tremendously valuable, to the Partners which benefit from them directly, and to the broader, common cause of the Euro-Atlantic security and stability. And they come on top of Switzerland’s traditional strong efforts in the humanitarian field, which of course also benefit international security.

So today I thanked the Swiss authorities for their initiative, generosity and hard work, and encouraged them to continue their strong engagement.

NATO, meanwhile, is doing its part to further develop and deepen the Partnership. We are engaging all our Partners in the fight againt terrorism and against the threat of weapons of mass destruction. We are offering them greater opportunities for individualised cooperation that is better geared to their specific interests and concerns. We are also encouraging Partners to work both with NATO and each other to deal with security problems such as organised crime and illegal migration.

Of course, NATOs’s web of partnerships goes beyond PfP. For example, we have a special NATO Partner in Russia. During the 1990s, NATO and Russia had a nervous relationship that was burdened by lingering Cold War suspicions. But 11 September 2001 triggered a radical change as it confronted us with a dramatic new challenge which both sides knew that they had to tackle together.

We have been able to build on this new momentum in our relationship. In May last year we created the NATO-Russia Council, where 19 NATO countries and Russia sit as equals. Over the past year and a half our common agenda has broadened to a wide range of issues, from combating terrorism to preventing proliferation, and including close cooperation between our militaries.

That is a pattern of constructive cooperation that we want and will maintain – not just in the interest of NATO and Russia, but that of the entire Euro-Atlantic community.

Aside from these well-established Partnerships, we are also strengthening our 7-nation Mediterranean Dialogue. These seven countries – Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia – are keen to cooperate with NATO more closely. Incidentally, our so-called “19+7” meetings bring Israel and the other six Mediterranean Dialogue countries together around one table in a constructive not destructive relationship.

Let me finish my tour of our web of partnerships with our growing relationship with that other great organisation of the European landscape, the European Union.

For a long time our relationship was problematic because we worked in isolation from each other. Two organistions based in the same city but living on different planets. But that has now changed. We are developing a genuine strategic partnership between our two organisations.

Early this year we completed the vital “Berlin plus” agreement that provides a blueprint for practical NATO-EU cooperation without unnecessary duplication or destructive competition. This has already allowed the EU to follow NATO’s operation in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia last Spring. It should also help the Union to gradually assume more responsibility for security in the Balkans, starting perhaps in Bosnia.

Cooperation in crisis management is a first important step in the right direction. But we must go further. We must explore cooperation across the whole spectrum of our shared interests. This, after all, is what a true strategic partnership is all about.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the face of complex, deadly threats, that can fester far away and then strike with little warning in our streets and homes, there is simply no substitute for a transatlantic security partnership that is based on open consultation and profound military cooperation. In other words: NATO.

All of the transformation that I have described – in the Alliance’s membership, in our missions, in our capabilities, and in our partnerships – will strengthen NATO’s ability to deal with the security challenges of this new century.

Last week, in Colorado Springs, at the end of the latest Alliance meeting of Defence Ministers, I was given a T-shirt with the very American message: “This is not your daddy’s NATO”. Not perhaps the way I would normally put it but entirely true.

Because NATO has proved its worth in a very different world from that in which it was designed.

And our transformation will have effects well beyond our membership. It will maximise the power and the influence of the entire Euro-Atlantic community, to build peace, stability and security. I am confident that Switzerland will continue to play a major role in that joint effort.

Thank you.

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

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