Updated: 07-Feb-2004 NATO Speeches


7 Feb. 2004


by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
at the Munich Security Conference

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Over the past few weeks I have been visiting several Allied capitals, on both sides of the Atlantic. And I came away from all those visits with one strong message: it is time to put the differences of the past behind us. It is time to get back to business.

The transatlantic community has realised that we have no more time to waste. That there are simply too many threats on the horizon, too many challenges for us to tackle. Terrorism, the threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are confronting us with new and unprecedented strategic environment.

Transatlantic cooperation is the most effective way to meet these challenges. Open security dialogue among likeminded Allies, and profound security cooperation in the framework of NATO are the best ways to balance the burden of getting the job done and to get the best bang for our buck.

The first area where we see this new transatlantic realism is Afghanistan. I have said on many occasions that Afghanistan is my Number One priority. Afghanistan may be halfway around the world, but its success matters to our security right here. If the political process fails, that country will become, once again, a haven for the world's most dangerous terrorists. We must not let this happen. And we will not let it happen.

Yesterday's meeting of Defence Ministers has made that very clear. There was general agreement on extending the number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams. This will help spread stability beyond the capital of Kabul and assist the Karzai Government in its task of consolidating the country and strengthening its ownership of the political and economic recovery process.

We discussed the need to achieve more synergy between the command structures of ISAF and Operation "Enduring Freedom", not least for security reasons, in order to achieve the greatest political and military coherence of our efforts.

We are working with the EUROCORPS countries on deploying this HQ to Kabul once the Canadian lead comes to an end. This is very good news indeed. The use of the EUROCORPS in such a demanding mission is another sign that transatlantic security cooperation has entered a new level of maturity.

Throughout its long history, NATO has always backed up its words with deeds. My job is to ensure that we do so again in Afghanistan, in concert with other key players such as the UN and the EU.

Another area showing transatlantic realism is the Balkans. Today, the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina has improved to the point where we can safely reduce our troop presence. We are now discussing the modalities of handing over important responsibilities in Bosnia to the European Union.

This handover is not about replacing one institutional wiring diagram with another. It is a litmus test for the relationship between NATO and the EU. It is a litmus test for our ability to put behind the theological debates of the past and move toward pragmatic cooperation. And it is a litmus test for the NATO-EU arrangements we put in place with the so-called "Berlin Plus" agreement.

If this handover proceeds in a smooth and transparent way, and I have no reason to doubt this, the Balkans, Europe, and the transatlantic relationship will have made a major leap forward.

Another commitment may also be coming our way: Iraq. Let me be very clear: yes, there were differences over the war. But there cannot be the slightest doubt that winning the peace in Iraq is in everybody’s collective interest.

If a legitimate Iraqi Government, supported by the United Nations, asks for our assistance, NATO should not abdicate from its responsibilities. My job, as Secretary General, is to make sure that, once we reach that point, NATO is ready to do the job.

We face daunting challenges. As Allies consider them, they must take into account the need to provide the necessary resources to accomplish the missions they task the Alliance to carry out. No one should be under any illusions about the time and effort it will take to create the conditions for self-sustaining peace and stability in those regions.

Our missions in the Balkans, in Afghanistan, and maybe at some stage in Iraq, and in addition our continuing collective defence role demonstrate that NATO remains the world’s most effective organisation at generating, leading and supporting large, multinational and long-term military operations.

This is a most impressive track record. But to maintain it requires a lot of work. Above all, it requires us to re-double our efforts to acquire the forces and capabilities we need in order to sustain the missions we take on.

We are making good progress in acquiring the capabilities we need. The NATO Response Force is up and running with an initial capability. It will ensure that all the Allies can engage together at the sharp end of military operations, so there is no division of labour between those who do the fighting and those who "do the dishes".

Together with our new Allied Command Transformation, the NRF will play another vital role as well: as a transmission belt for the latest technology, the latest doctrine, the latest thinking on defence. Because transformation of our armed forces is a challenge for all Allies, not just for a few.

I am also glad that many of our member states are looking seriously at the issue of deployability and usability. The recent difficulties in generating enough forces for ISAF have made the headlines, but the problem is not confined to Afghanistan. We face a significant shortfall in deployable forces.

If this shortfall is left unaddressed, we will soon reach a point where our political reach goes beyond our military grasp. That is why I want nations to take military reform seriously. To pull their weight. To come up with people and equipment. And this means spending on the equipment necessary to allow us to deploy our forces where they are really needed. Because capability plus deployability equals credibility.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

NATO has entered a new phase in its evolution. Through enlargement, we are bringing seven new democracies firmly into the transatlantic community. Through our partnerships – including, vitally, with Russia – we are exporting security, and our values, to the regions neighbouring the Euro-Atlantic area. And through our operations, we are together delivering hard security, in the most challenging circumstances, where it matters.

More than any other organisation, NATO squares the circle of multilateralism and effectiveness. That is why this Alliance remains indispensable. Because in this 21st century, we need multilateralism with teeth.

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