Updated: 15-Jun-2004 NATO Speeches


8 June 2004

Istanbul Summit:
The Transatlantic Alliance Shaping Stability

Speech by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
at the Centre of European Reform

NATO Istanbul Summit
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me first of all thank the Centre for European Reform for hosting this event.

This is a busy month on the calendar of high level meetings. The Normandy commemorations dominated the headlines all of last week. This week, the G-8 is meeting on Sea Island. Next week, leaders from the US and the EU will gather in Ireland. And then, at the end of the month, our NATO Summit will be held in Istanbul.

The Transatlantic Community is at the heart of all of these meetings. Indeed, there is no more important a relationship for the defence of our values, our security and our prosperity than profound, trusting cooperation between Europe and North America.

Does this relationship have its ups and downs? Of course it has. We all remember the Euro-missile debates near the end of the Cold War. And last year’s Iraq debates were, by any standards, heated.

But this relationship – this profound alliance – has endured and prospered for one simple reason. Our safety, and our values, are best defended when Europe and North America work together.

That was true throughout the Cold War. It was true during the tumultuous decade of the 90s, when we had to stop wars taking place on our doorstep. And it is as true today as we have increasingly to defend our security and our values by shaping stability in new theatres, sometimes far from home.

Our Istanbul Summit, at the end of the month, will demonstrate that the transatlantic community remains a powerful force for positive change. It will highlight just how much NATO is shaping international security for the better, including by shaping stability where Allies agree it is necessary. And it will help to shape our Alliance, so that it remains as effective in future as it is today.

Those of you who have followed my earlier speeches will not be surprised to hear me start with Afghanistan. It has been my number one priority since the day I took office as Secretary General. And the reason is simple. As an international community, we simply cannot let Afghanistan fail. We cannot, and we will not, turn our backs on that country.

Since last summer, NATO has already done a lot to make Afghanistan more safe and secure. Today, thanks in large part to the NATO-led peacekeeping forces, Kabul is safer than it has been for decades. Heavy weapons are being put under lock and key. And the local police and army are being trained at record speed.

And we are preparing to do more. NATO already has one Provincial Reconstruction Team under our command, in Kunduz. This innovative civil-military team is helping to build dialogue, build trust and build security, and the PRT concept is welcomed throughout the country.

That is why NATO has committed to be in a position, by the time of Istanbul, to take five PRTs under its command. This will contribute to building security, and it will help support the national elections later this year.

Now, I have seen the headlines suggesting that NATO might not meet this commitment. Let me be clear. At Istanbul, I am confident that the Heads of State and Government, alongside President Karzai, will confirm that NATO will expand its peacekeeping mission beyond Kabul, and that we will play our role in supporting the upcoming elections.

We have made a commitment. We must meet it. We will meet it. And in doing so, we will not only help that long-suffering country to take a major step towards a better future. We will also demonstrate NATO’s effectiveness at shaping stability, through its operations, where required.

Afghanistan is not only an immediate challenge, however. It is also an example of the new kinds of operations this Alliance must be prepared to face: largely unforeseen; potentially far away from our traditional areas of operation; and testing our collective ability to contribute to peace when and where we must.

At Istanbul, we will take stock of the progress we have made in developing the capabilities necessary for operations in the 21st century. For example, the NATO Response Force is increasingly ready for action. And we are enhancing NATO’s strategic airlift and sealift, to move far and to move quickly.

But more needs to be done. Since almost my first day in office, I have been aware that we need to do better in ensuring that our political commitments are matched by the forces needed to do the job. And this has to be a system that works, over the long term, for the range of new missions that I am sure NATO will be called upon to undertake in the future.

Some of you may have read an interview I gave in the Financial Times a few weeks ago on this subject. If you did, you know that I intend, in Istanbul, to put some fresh thoughts in front of the NATO Heads of State and Government on matching our means and our ambitions. Should the NATO Allies collectively own and operate certain key assets, as we do now with our AWACS aircraft? Can we take a longer horizon for our force planning and tie it more closely to our operations, so that we are better prepared for unforeseen emergencies? Should we have separate funds in our national budgets, so that the cost of providing forces for new missions does not compete with other defence priorities?

These questions cannot be answered today. But I do want to see them addressed sooner rather than later. Because I see these as crucial elements of preparing the Alliance for the future. NATO must be able to deploy forces where and when they are needed in future, as effectively as it has done until now. Because the Alliance is a vital – indeed, an essential – part of the international community’s efforts to build peace in troubled areas.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a vivid example of NATO’s potential to shape security for the better. Nine years ago, we helped bring a terrible war to an end. Today, after keeping the peace since then, we can talk about bringing the mission to a successful conclusion. Indeed, I believe that at Istanbul, NATO’s Heads of State and Government will do just that.

NATO will have a continuing role in Bosnia and Herzegovina, beyond the end of the year. We will have a headquarters in Sarajevo, and the Alliance will support the EU in its follow-on mission. But the overall lesson is clear. Today, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country at peace, and moving ever-closer to Euro-Atlantic institutions. That is the power of transatlantic cooperation. That is the power of NATO to help shape security for the better.

That power is still very much required in Kosovo. In mid-March, violence flared up across Kosovo, violence at a level we had not seen since 1999. KFOR reinforced very quickly, and we helped to put the violence down. But the solutions in Kosovo must be political. NATO will continue to play its essential part in maintaining stability, until peace and security become solid and self-sustaining.

But of course, shaping security and stability means more than peacekeeping alone. It also means partnership. It means building trust through dialogue. Sparking and guiding reform. And improving cooperation by enhancing interoperability.

Our Partnership policy has proven the value of this approach. Over the past decade, it has helped young democracies to find their feet, by assisting them in mastering the challenges of their domestic transition. It has even helped ten Partners to become full members of NATO – a step that has enhanced European stability more broadly. Above all, Partnership has helped us to create a pool of like-minded countries, ready and able to tackle common challenges, together.

Today, our Partners -- from Finland to Sweden, and from Georgia to Uzbekistan -- have become real security contributors. Their political and military support has become indispensable for NATO’s operations, whether in the Balkans or Afghanistan. That is why Partnership is becoming an ever more critical element of our approach to shaping stability. And why we must keep the evolution of NATO’s Partnerships closely in line with the Alliance’s own transformation.
At the Summit, we will launch a new phase in our Partnership policy – with more individualised cooperation, a greater emphasis on defence reform, and a stronger focus on cooperation with the Caucasus and Central Asia. We will also continue to deepen and broaden our cooperation with our two “distinctive Partners” – Russia and Ukraine.

But no modern approach to Euro-Atlantic security can focus exclusively on the Euro-Atlantic area. Because one of the key challenges of the 21st century is building better, stronger ties between the Euro-Atlantic community and its neighbours to the South.

There is no better place for this to take place than Istanbul – a city that bridges two continents.

At Istanbul, we will make a step-change in our existing dialogue with seven southern Mediterranean countries. We will move this relationship from dialogue to partnership. With more practical cooperation. More joint training. And perhaps even joint operations to defend against terrorism – for example, with participation by a Mediterranean Dialogue country in our operation Active Endeavour, protecting against terrorism in the Mediterranean.

On a parallel track, I am confident that, at Istanbul, we will open up, for the first time, a security dialogue with countries of the wider region of the middle east.

These countries matter to us. They matter, because demographics, migration, and energy security create an ever-closer interdependence between us. And they matter, because the new 21st century threats affect us all and, hence, require a common response.

That is why, at Istanbul, I hope we will open up a dialogue, in a spirit of joint ownership, with interested countries in this pivotal region.

This dialogue must be, and will be, a two-way street. Such a bridge of open consultation will only be strong if it is built by all the participants, together. And if it succeeds, over time, in breaking down stereotypes and building trust, our “Istanbul Cooperation Initiative” has the potential to make a real contribution to enhancing our common security.

There will be other important achievements in Istanbul. Our Heads of State and Government will put into action a plan for the Alliance to acquire cutting-edge technologies to defend against terrorism. We will reaffirm the importance, and the potential of NATO’s relations with the EU, as shown so vividly in the Balkans. And we will reiterate that NATO’s door remains to open to new members in future. We will have a full agenda indeed.

Now, it would be nice if, at the end of June, the eyes of the world will be only on Istanbul. But there will be another issue vying for the headlines as well: Iraq.

I have always said and I will repeat here today that certain conditions are essential for NATO to consider a greater, structural role in Iraq. One of those conditions – a UN Security Council resolution -- is being debated today in New York. It may be agreed very soon indeed.

I do not know if, or when, a sovereign and legitimate Iraqi government might request NATO assistance – though the draft resolution does call on regional organisations to play a role. I do certainly not wish to prejudge any decisions by NATO’s 26 nations. And I want to make sure that we do not rush to judgement in any way. Helping Iraq to find its feet is a long-term challenge. We need to have a long-term perspective.

But I do know that the international community simply cannot afford to let Iraq fail. I believe that, if both the UN and the Iraqi people call on NATO for help, the Atlantic Alliance cannot turn a blind eye. Already, 16 NATO nations have troops on the ground in Iraq, and NATO continues to support Poland’s operation there. And I am confident that, if Allies were to agree on a greater role for the Alliance, NATO could make its contribution to the international community's efforts to support this new Iraq.

As I have said, I cannot, and will not, prejudge any decisions by NATO governments. The only thing I can guarantee at this stage is that, in Istanbul, there will be a serious exchange of views on Iraq.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our Istanbul Summit marks another major step forward for the Atlantic Alliance. It will confirm NATO’s role as an indispensable peacekeeper, including in very new theatres. It will enhance our ability to shape change and build peace through dialogue and cooperation with interested partners. And while never calling into question the commitment to collective defence, Istanbul will mark a decisive step forward in the modernisation of NATO’s capability to take on the most demanding 21st century missions.

While NATO’s transformation continues, its fundamental purpose endures. It is the vital instrument for Europe and North America to defend peace, democracy and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area – and, increasingly, beyond as well. That has been true for over five decades. Istanbul will show that it is as true today as ever, and lay the foundation for that success to continue.

Thank you.

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