Updated: 04-Mar-2004 NATO Speeches

at the Diplomatic Academy


4 Mar. 2004

NATO's Transforming Agenda

by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

Five years ago, when Poland became a member of NATO, the Polish Foreign Minister promised that Poland would be a "good and credible ally, for good and bad weather". In the time that has passed since then, Poland has kept its promise.

Only a few weeks after Poland's accession to the Washington Treaty, we had to weather the storm of the Kosovo crisis. Throughout these difficult times, Poland was firmly at our side. The Alliance prevailed. And today Mr. Milosevic is on trial -- just a short distance away from my house in The Hague.

On September 11, 2001, our resolve was tested yet again, when a new breed of terrorists struck the economic and military heart of the United States.

NATO invoked Article 5, its collective defence commitment. NATO aircraft crossed the Atlantic to guard American skies. And Polish soldiers, together with those of many other Allies, went to Afghanistan to fight Al Qaida and their Taliban hosts.

Once again, we prevailed. The Taliban regime is gone and will never return. And Al Qaida has suffered a major blow. Once again, Poland made good on its promise to be a true Ally, not just a fair-weather friend.

Today, Poland is commanding the multi-national division in Iraq -- a division that brings together countries from Europe, Asia and Latin America in the pursuit of creating a sovereign, democratic and peaceful Iraq.

Once again, Poland lives up to its promise -- under very testing circumstances. I salute you for this. And I urge you to stay the course. Because the challenges before us require commitment and unity of purpose.

Above all, the challenges ahead require an effective Alliance.

Terrorism, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and "failed states" are challenges Europe and North America can only meet together. NATO is the place where common responses are being developed. And it is the place where common decisions are converted into common action.

No other organisation can square the circle of multilateralism and effectiveness the way NATO can. And I also dare to say that no other organisation has proven to be as dynamic as NATO, and as capable of adapting to changing circumstances. A look at the Alliance's transformation agenda makes that very clear.

The Number One priority on our agenda is Afghanistan. I have said it before and I will say it again: If we want to win the war on terrorism, we must win the peace in Afghanistan.

When I visited Afghanistan a few weeks ago, I spoke to President Karzai and key military people on the ground. And the messages I got from all concerned were the same.

The first message was clear: we are making progress. Kabul, under ISAF’s protection, is getting safer. And people outside Kabul benefit from the stability and assistance brought by the Provincial Reconstruction Teams outside Kabul. Slowly but surely, the government is asserting its authority more broadly. And the coalition forces that are fighting the remnants of the Taliban and Al Qaida have made it very clear that they are going to prevail.

The second message, however, was just as clear: we must do more. To succeed, Afghanistan needs more support. More Provincial Reconstruction Teams. More equipment and personnel for ISAF and the PRTs to do to their job. And more assistance to help this summer’s elections run properly.

NATO is already doing its part. And we will do more. Last month, NATO Defence Ministers made commitments to contribute to new PRTs. And I am confident that there will be further commitments in the weeks and months to come.

I already mentioned Iraq. NATO is doing its part there too -- by supporting Poland in its leadership of a division in Central Iraq. This is a historic "first" -- for Poland and for NATO. But momentum is growing for our Alliance to do more.

Should we do more? My answer to this question is clear: If a sovereign Iraqi government, with the support of the United Nations, were to request NATO to play a greater role, then we should do more. For I do not see how we could abdicate our responsibilities if such a request were made.

That NATO is under pressure to do more should not come as a surprise. Because the Alliance has demonstrated that it is better able than any other organisation to generate, deploy, command and sustain large, multinational military operations.

It is clear, at the same time, that in order to maintain that ability, urgent reforms are necessary. We are facing a real shortfall in useable, deployable troops to meet our current political commitments, let alone any future ones. Our recent difficulties in generating enough forces for ISAF have made the headlines, but the problem is not confined to Afghanistan.

That is why I intend to press nations -- all NATO nations -- for more concrete targets and clear-cut timelines to develop the necessary capabilities. I want all Allies to pull their weight. To carry on with the necessary defence reforms. To face the challenge of military transformation. And to put their money where their mouth is. Because, as our Supreme Allied Commander, General Jones, is fond of saying, a vision without resources is a hallucination.

Visions, we should remind ourselves occasionally, can come true. I am told that the building we are meeting in today once was the seat of the Russian governor.

That was a different era, an era in which Poland had lost control over its own destiny. But even up until the 1990s, it seemed that the past held Poland firmly in its grip. Even then, the vision of Poland in NATO seemed too bold ever to come true. Bringing Poland into NATO and building a strong NATO-Russia relationship seemed like squaring the circle – a futile attempt at defying history.

But the vision did come true. Today, not only is Poland in NATO, together with the Czech Republic and Hungary, but seven more nations, including the three Baltic countries, will join our Alliance in just a few weeks' time. And at the same time, our relations with Russia have consistently improved.

Of course, we don't agree on everything in our NATO-Russia Council. But the NRC was never conceived as a talking shop in the first place. We want it to be a forum where the Allies – nineteen now, but twenty-six soon -- discuss with Russia the real issues on our agenda. And that includes thorny issues like the CFE Treaty and Russia’s Istanbul commitments. The only strong relationship is one that is open, direct and fair. I am determined to help build such a strong relationship with Russia.

I am equally determined to push relations with other Partner countries to a new level. As seven Partners turn into Allies, our Partnership policy will enter a new phase. A phase characterised by more individualised cooperation with Partners. A phase characterised by a much stronger focus on cooperation with the Caucasus and Central Asia. And a phase characterised by a much stronger focus on interoperability to meet the new threats, such as terrorism. This new Partnership will be an indispensable part of NATO's transformation agenda. Because global challenges require global answers.

One very special partner country is Ukraine. Here in Poland, I don't need to elaborate on Ukraine's geostrategic importance. Nor do I have to elaborate on the difficult phase of transition this country is currently going through.

We all agree that for Ukraine to master its many daunting challenges, it needs assistance, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to provide such assistance. We all want to see Ukraine succeed in its quest for integration into European structures. But let there be no mistake: Ukraine’s progress toward democratic reform is essential to that integration. It is a precondition for Ukraine's successful journey into Europe.

Poland's journey back to Europe will soon be complete, when it joins the European Union. Membership in the EU will bring, yet again, new obligations and responsibilities. But it will also give Poland many new opportunities. In particular, it will give Poland an even greater say in the shaping of a European Security and Defence Policy.

Let me be absolutely clear: The EU must become a strategic actor. You cannot have European integration at all levels, yet keep security totally excluded from it.

A Europe which aspires to have a common foreign and security policy must inevitably develop a military instrument as well, or its foreign policy will lack credibility.

A European Security and Defence Policy is a strategic imperative. But if it is to succeed, it cannot be a rival to our Atlantic Alliance, or a counterweight to the United States. It should complement and reinforce, rather than duplicate, assets and structures that we already have available.

Of course Europeans want a stronger voice in Washington. But what message should that stronger voice deliver? Just a louder "no" to America? Or rather a loud and clear "yes" -- "yes" to a partnership in which Europe pulls its weight, and "yes" to a partnership that seeks common approaches to new challenges?

The key to such a partnership lies in closer relations between NATO and the European Union. Institutional rivalries are a thing of the past.

We must broaden the cooperation between both our institutions in all areas where our interests coincide, and where we can complement each other. There are many such areas: managing crises, combating terrorism, preventing proliferation and - above all - improving military capabilities.

The need for close cooperation between NATO and the EU will also become apparent in another region -- the region that some have termed the "Greater Middle East". More and more we realise that if the problems in this region are left to fester, we may pay a terrible price.

We should not be under any illusion. Advancing security and political and economic progress in this region is an enormous task. It will require strong engagement by the countries in the region. It will require a sound understanding on our part of their ambitions and concerns. And it will require a new degree of cooperation between our international institutions.

I am confident that, at our Summit in Istanbul late June, we will be able to give a clear signal with respect to NATO’s contribution to this effort. Because the need to reach out to Northern Africa and the Middle East is so abundantly clear. Poland, through its presence in Iraq, is showing us the way forward: Indifference is not a viable security strategy in the 21st century. The only real strategy is engagement

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have seen over and over again that when Europe and North America work together, they are an irresistible force for positive change.

Positive change in the Balkans, where NATO brought an end to war and gave this region a new lease on life.

Positive change in the wider Europe, where NATO enlargement and ever deepening partnerships are helping to turn this continent into a zone peace.
Positive change in Afghanistan, where NATO now helps to build the foundations of a brighter future. And, let us hope, positive change also in the Greater Middle East, where NATO can offer not only dialogue, but also a wealth of practical cooperation.

Through NATO, the transatlantic community can shape its strategic environment in unique ways. Poland has become an indispensable part of this community. Because within five short years since its accession to NATO, Poland has demonstrated beyond any doubt that it is not just a fair-weather friend, but a true Ally.

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