Updated: 07-Sep-2004 NATO Speeches


7 Sept. 2004


of H. E. Ambassador Karel Kovanda,
Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to NATO
and Dean of the North Atlantic Council,
at the Meeting of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC)

NRC united in condemnation of recent terrorist attacks in Russia
NATO-Russia relations
NATO-Russia Council (NRC)

Mr Chairman, and dear Konstantin Vasilyevich,

Three years ago, almost to the day, the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council met in this very room to express its anger and indignation at the barbaric acts committed by terrorists against the US.

We ourselves, the NRC, met in this room just last March, to express similar feelings in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Madrid.

And today, we meet again, stricken with grief over the horrors that in recent days and weeks have befallen Russia.

The scourge, the pestilence of terrorism has been affecting people in most diverse countries, from India to Indonesia, from Kenya to Israel, from the Sudan to Spain. In this array, the people of the Russian Federation’s many nationalities have been its all too frequent target.

Human nature defends itself against the unbearable nature of horrors that affect others by tuning down our sensitivities, by becoming inured to catastrophic news. A first attack evokes shock and revulsion, as does the second. However, as the number of attacks increases, as their perverse regularity becomes more frequent, one develops a protective shell of sorts. The fact is – cynical though it may sound – that terrorist attacks against civilians no longer surprise us – though we will definitely never accept them as run-of-the-mill events.

However, the tragedy of Beslan has pierced that protective shell for all of us. The tragedy of Beslan marked previously unattained heights of terrorist cruelty and callousness. In Beslan, terrorists attacked little children, hundreds of little children. They tormented and tortured them by depriving them of food, drink, sleep, comfort, and even of toilets, not to speak of the love and succour of their parents. Finally, they shot them in the back as the poor little creatures tried to escape the horrors that may now mark their psyche for life.

There is no cause, there is no explanation, there is no grievance that can possibly justify this behaviour in the eyes of anybody. We often talk about “innocent civilians”, “innocent bystanders”. Children are innocent by definition. Children are sacred, all over the world, for everybody.

As I went to sign the condolence book at the Russian Embassy yesterday, I picked up my little boy from school on the way. He inquired where I was going and why. I explained about the terrorists, the bad people, and what they had done to hundreds of Beslan’s little children, not older than my own ones. I showed him pictures in the newspapers. My little David seldom understands what my work is about; but yesterday, I think he did.

Our joint statement describes what we are determined to do, jointly, in the struggle against terrorism. That’s the future. Today, now, we extend a helping hand as best we know how, and the Russian Ambassador has graciously acknowledged this assistance. Above all, though, today we grieve with you and your people, Konstantin Vasilyevich, today we mourn your victims with you.

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