Updated: 28-Jun-2004 NATO Speeches


27 June 2004

Short Remarks

by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
at the NATO Response Force (NRF)/Allied Command Transformation (ACT)/High Readiness Force (HRF) Exhibition

NATO Istanbul Summit
NATO Response Force (NRF)
High resolution photos

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to open this exhibition. Tomorrow, NATO’s Heads of State and Government will meet here to discuss a range of issues that are largely political in nature. But NATO is both a political and a military organisation. So it is all the more fitting to have this display of NATO’s military dimension right here at our Summit.

NATO's credibility rests on its military capability. We have seen in Bosnia and Herzegovina that the use of economic sanctions or moral condemnation availed us little without the credible backing of military power. In Kosovo, our military competence was essential in preventing a humanitarian tragedy. In Afghanistan, too, it is military capabilities that make all the difference.

So our military competence is a precious asset. We must preserve it. But in today's environment, we cannot preserve our competence merely by standing still. We have to acknowledge that the requirements for modern military operations have changed dramatically. We need modern and affordable militaries that are geared to the new strategic environment.

In short, we need to embrace transformation – transformation of the way we think about military force, the way we organise it, and the way we apply it. Only if we embrace transformation can we confidently speak about preserving NATO's military competence.

This exhibition is giving us a glimpse on how NATO is embracing transformation.

It showcases Allied Command Transformation, which is a driving force behind NATO’s military adaptation. As the command in charge of training, standardisation, concept development and experimentation, ACT has a huge – and positive – impact on how NATO prepares for future missions. It is a revolutionary approach whose time has come. And its latest contribution is the opening of a state of the art Training Centre in Poland just two days ago.

Another major part of this exhibition is the NATO Response Force. We just marked its change of command. The NRF has, in many respects, become the flagship of NATO’s military transformation. And it will ensure that all Allies can engage together at the sharp end of military operations.

Our Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defence Battalion also features in this exhibition. The multinational CBRN Battalion is a vivid example of how NATO is addressing the new threats posed by weapons of mass destruction.

And last, but certainly not least, this exhibition features the Turkish High Readiness Force. The Turkish HRF is another example of successful transformation. As one of several new rapid reaction Headquarters, it demonstrates NATO’s move from a largely static military structure to one that puts the premium on speed, mobility and flexibility – characteristics that are in growing demand in this new security environment.

I wish this exhibition every success. It shows the real NATO – an Alliance ready to embrace the challenge of change. And since this exhibition includes expert military briefers, I can only encourage the representatives of the media to make use of this opportunity to visit the exhibition during the Summit and put questions to them.

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