Updated: 29-Jun-2004 NATO Speeches


28 June 2004


By Hon. Doug Bereuter, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly
at the Meeting of the North Atlantic Council
at the level of Heads of State and Government

NATO Istanbul Summit

Secretary General, distinguished Heads of State and Government, Ladies and gentlemen, it is an honor and a pleasure for me as President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly to address this auspicious gathering, as was my privilege in Prague. I am accompanied today by the Secretary General of the NATO PA, Mr. Simon Lunn, and U.S. military aide, Col. Tom Shubert.

This is my second and final year as President of the NATO PA. I am also retiring from the United States' Congress after 26 years of service, much of it, I should add, devoted to NATO and the transatlantic relationship. As these are my twilight days in the Congress and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, I would like to offer a few brief and frank observations about the state of our Alliance and its relations with the Parliamentary Assembly.

As you will recall, in Prague, two years ago, Alliance leaders adopted a number of decisions designed to transform NATO into an organization able to deal with the threats of the twenty first century, a turbulent world of failed states, terrorism and weapons proliferation. Today we see the results of one of these decisions, the invitation for seven countries to join the Alliance.

I wish to add my own greetings, to the leaders of the seven new members who are present today. Last year, as President of the Assembly, I traveled to all seven countries and returned even more confident that their membership would reinvigorate the Alliance.

I certainly share the view that the enlargement process must continue. NATO's door must remain open to all European countries that wish to join the Alliance and meet the requirements of membership. Of course, an important task now is to support the efforts of the current candidate countries – Albania, Croatia and Macedonia and any countries, which may join the list – as they strive for NATO membership. We, in the Assembly, will continue to support the efforts of our parliamentary colleagues from these three Adriatic countries. I believe it is important to maintain the momentum of enlargement and I recommend that the next summit to consider enlargement candidates be scheduled no later than 2007.

It is clear to all, I believe, that Partnership for Peace has been a key initiative in transforming NATO from its Cold War orientation. Now, PfP should play an equally important role in engaging countries that may never join the Alliance but which may become key security partners. The success of PfP in extending a zone of security to the East needs to be replicated to the South. I believe the latest Alliance initiative to deepen and broaden the Mediterranean dialogue can be seen as a natural geographic extension of NATO's stabilizing role.

I also believe our work in the Assembly reinforces NATO's partnership activities by adding a much-needed parliamentary dimension. Our own Mediterranean Dialogue will, likewise, reinforce NATO's latest initiative. Involvement in Assembly activities offers a logical first step for countries interested in closer relations with NATO, an opportunity to become more familiar with the Alliance, and for their legislators to gain insights into parliamentary practices. I would urge the closest possible coordination between NATO and the Assembly in this increasingly crucial area.

If I may say so, frankly, unfortunately not all the decisions taken in Prague have been so successful. There, NATO leaders also endorsed a Capabilities Commitment intended to address the serious shortfalls in Alliance capabilities. In Afghanistan today we are seeing the price of our failure to implement this Commitment.

It is certainly true that the decision by NATO to take command of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (ISAF) was a development of truly historic proportions. Yet, unless the NATO allies quickly remedy grave shortfalls in military personnel and equipment, this mission faces a real danger of failure. Without additional capabilities, the September elections will likely do little more than legitimize the warlords and drug traffickers who control much of the country. A team of Assembly members, during a recent visit, saw the urgency of the situation for themselves. Despite the large numbers of assets that NATO countries theoretically have pledged, the members seemingly cannot find a few more infantry companies, cannot find a few more helicopters and cannot find a few more transport aircraft. In some countries I suggest – all excuses aside - this is a failure of political will, pure and simple. I ask too – why not use the NATO Response Force for this mission?

Make no mistake about it – the result puts at risk the very credibility of NATO as an institution. Recognizing this reality, the NATO Assembly meeting in Bratislava three weeks' ago, in unprecedented fashion, authorized me to send a letter to the leaders of all twenty-six NATO countries, urging them to provide the necessary resources.

As legislators, we also recognize our responsibility to press our governments to dig deep and find the extra personnel and equipment needed to make this mission a success. As those most frequently in contact with the people they represent, the legislators of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly can play a special role in explaining and enlisting support for Alliance policies. My own experience suggests that our citizens can be made to understand why the men and women of our armed forces must risk their lives in countries like Afghanistan and why our treasuries must bear the costs for peacekeeping operations. However, they will find it less easy to understand why we have failed.

Providing more usable and ready forces must now be our top priority. To play an effective role in achieving this, we the parliamentary side, need greater transparency and candor from our governments. We parliamentarians need to be told whether our own governments and others are not fulfilling their commitments; only then can we hold them fully accountable. I hope the situation in Afghanistan will spur each country and the Alliance to confront this issue as a matter of great urgency.

Mr. Secretary General, in conclusion, let me finish with a personal observation.

As we look at the Alliance today, we have much of which we can be proud. Its values have been embraced by former adversaries who, with their fresh memories of totalitarianism, are fully committed to the defense of our collective freedom. This is the most tangible proof of its success and its durability.

I shall leave parliamentary life and the world of NATO with a strong belief in the health and future of the Alliance. I believe in the future of NATO because my long experience in the Assembly has convinced me how much the two sides of the Atlantic yet have in common. The trust, friendship, and rapport we develop in our many Assembly meetings survive even the most heated disagreements because we still share the same basic values and goals.

This is the best guarantee for NATO's future.

Thank you for your attention.

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