Updated: 13-Oct-2004 NATO Speeches

Poiana Brasov,

13 Oct. 2004

Opening statement

by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
at the Informal Meeting of Defence Ministers

13-14 Oct. 2004
Informal Meeting of Defence Ministers
13 Oct. 2004
Audio file of the opening statement by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
13 Oct. 2004
High resolution photos
NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

Ladies and Gentlemen, good morning and welcome.

This is our first informal meeting of Alliance Defence Ministers since our seven new members joined in April this year and the first NATO Ministerial meeting to take place in one of our new member countries.

It is therefore a particular pleasure to be here in Romania, and let me start by thanking, on behalf of all participants, our host, Ioan Mircea Pascu, for the exceptional hospitality we have been shown.

I would also like to extend a special welcome to those Ministers who are participating in a NATO Defence Ministers’ meeting for the first time, Karel Kuhnl of the Czech Republic and Luc Frieden of Luxembourg.

Let me briefly review the topics for our meetings today and tomorrow.

We will focus this morning on the Alliance’s military transformation – on what we have accomplished and what remains to be done.

This afternoon, during a working lunch, we will discuss current operations – in Afghanistan and in the Balkans – as well as NATO’s assistance in training Iraq’s security forces and our response to terrorism.

Tomorrow, as you know, we will hold an informal meeting of the NATO-Russia Council with our Russian colleague, Sergey Ivanov.

But let me say a bit more about our discussions today.

As I have said, we will take up NATO’s transformation and its operational engagements in separate sessions, but these topics are very closely linked to one another.

I do not suppose there was ever a time when we could meaningfully discuss our operations on the one hand and our capabilities on the other as if they were unrelated, as if the success of our operations was not completely dependent on the adequacy of our forces.

But there was a time when the principal measure of the adequacy of NATO’s forces was their ability to deter its adversaries -- to shape the calculations of other nations in such a way that the forces of the Alliance were never put to the harsh test of real operations.

Tthat time is gone. Today’s circumstances are different. Just reflect that since our last informal meeting in February we have witnessed an upsurge of ethnic violence in Kosovo; horrendous terrorist outrages in Madrid, Beslan and elsewhere throughout the globe; the beginning of NATO’s training mission in Iraq and – just days ago – the presidential elections in Afghanistan. The challenges are diverse and demanding. NATO operations in the Mediterranean, in the Balkans, and in Afghanistan test the adequacy of our forces day in and day out.

I am happy to say that the professionalism and courage of the service men and women in these operations have been exemplary, and to them goes much of the credit for the stability and security – and therefore the human well-being – the Alliance is striving to bring to regions as diverse as Kosovo and Kabul.

But we have less reason for satisfaction with our arrangements for marshalling forces for operations and sustaining them in the field for what are often, unavoidably, extended periods. We must do more to reinforce the linkage between our political commitments and the resulting operational roles and responsibilities. And we must do more to ensure public support for our operations.

This is why the work we have had under way since our meeting last year in Colorado Springs to make our forces more available, usable and sustainable is so important, and why we must use this meeting to give a strong impulse to that work so that it produces rapid, concrete, significant improvements.

I am pleased to be able to announce that the NATO Response Force has just obtained its initial operational capability, on its way to full capability in two years’ time. This is an important milestone in our quest for more usable and deployable forces, but more needs to be done to complete that quest.

I want now to offer the floor to our host for any brief words of introduction that he may have. Ioan?

Thank you.

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