Updated: 19-May-2005 NATO Speeches

St. Gallen

19 May 2005

"Liberty as a security policy challenge"

Speech by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
at the 35th ISC Symosium

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The ISC Symposium has acquired an excellent reputation in fostering constructive dialogue between nations, generations and cultures. It is a real pleasure for me to participate in this year’s Symposium, and an honour to share the stage this morning with such eminent representatives from the world of politics and business.

Let me add right away that I am pleased with the involvement in this Symposium of so many young people. Their interest in the themes that are being discussed at this Symposium is absolutely vital. And that certainly applies to the theme that I have been asked to address, which is “Liberty as a Security Policy Challenge”.

There has been considerable attention this month to the 60 th anniversary of the end of World War Two. That was a conflict in which the basic values, and hence the very future, of this entire continent was at stake. A struggle for a Europe in which freedom, democracy, pluralism and ethnic tolerance would once again prevail.

Luckily, in the end, these values did prevail. And for almost six decades now, our continent has been at peace, our economies have flourished, and our standards of living have steadily grown. Indeed, we have been living in peace and prosperity for so long that we almost take it for granted. My own generation still remembers the post-war hardships. But it is obvious that younger generations do not.

Even the Cold War, which defined my generation’s outlook at the world, means very little to young people today. For us, the Cold War was a struggle about essential values – the freedom to speak your mind, the freedom to travel, the freedom to elect your own government. It was about the freedom to listen to the music, to go to the church, read the books, and see the movies of your own choice – not what anyone forced upon you.

Of course, things were very different in Central and Eastern Europe. An occasional look behind the Iron Curtain reminded us here in the West how lucky we were. How precious an achievement an open, pluralistic society really is. How precious our liberty is.

Today, not just World War Two, but also the Cold War, is history. For a twenty year old, that dark period of Europe’s history might appear just as far back as the Stone Age. The freedoms that we so carefully guarded have spread. So why, one might ask, should we be concerned about protecting our liberty?

Back in the 1950s, there was a report by the American Civil Liberties Union called “Liberty is always unfinished business”. I believe that description is very accurate indeed. Because we can never take our liberty for granted. Security, freedom and prosperity are not humanity's natural state. These achievements are vulnerable, and they still have to be worked for, day in and day out.

At the beginning of this new century, 60 years after World War Two and 15 years after the Cold War, we still face a number of very serious challenges to our liberty, and to our security -- the emergence of a new, lethal breed of terrorism; the risk of weapons of mass destruction falling in the hands of irresponsible regimes or individuals; and “failed states” that cause instability in their own region and well beyond. And we are faced with the difficult question of how to respond to these risks and threats – and how to secure our liberty.

There is no easy answer, but I believe that we should focus on two things. We must be prepared, if the need arises, to use military means to protect our liberty and security. But our first line of defence must be to promote our values – to uphold them in our own countries, and to advocate them abroad.

During the Cold War, we focussed on warding off possible attacks against our territory. Today, our security can be put at risk by developments that happen entirely within the borders of another country. This is true for the violence and instability that we saw in the former Yugoslavia during the1990s. And it is true for the kind of terrorism that the Taliban regime allowed to breed in Afghanistan before it hit us on 11 September 2001. In light of such serious challenges, we can no longer afford a passive, reactive approach to protecting our security. Unless we tackle these threats head-on, they risk escalating and blowing up in our face.

NATO has acted in line with that logic. If the Balkans are largely at peace today, and if countries in that region are now firmly on their way to an integrated Europe, it is because NATO got engaged. NATO soldiers stopped the bloodshed in Bosnia. NATO stopped and then reversed the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. NATO’s presence created the safe environment for other institutions to do their part in helping reconstruction and reconciliation. And we continue to engage the countries of the region – by offering them advice and assistance, and keeping open the door to NATO membership.

NATO has also assumed a major role in bringing back security and stability to Afghanistan. Today, that country is no longer under the Taliban boot. Al Qaida has lost a safe haven from which to plan attacks against us. NATO is extending its presence in the country, to help the Government of President Karzai to assert its authority. And we will help to provide security for this year’s parliamentary and provincial elections, as we did for the presidential elections last year. Because we are determined to continue to help the Afghan people to realise their dream of a better future.

More recently, NATO has started a mission to train Iraqi security forces. After successful elections, but protracted negotiations, Iraq now has a Government. Yet it is clear that it will take time for the political process to take root in Iraq, to build strong and effective institutions, instill respect for the rule of law, and encourage economic progress. All those efforts will depend critically on the ability of the Iraqi authorities to provide basic security for their people. And NATO is determined to help them to meet that challenge.

In defending our liberty today, we must be prepared, if the need arises, to make use of the military means at our disposal. We must ensure that those means are suitable to the task at hand, and deployed with due caution and respect for international law. And NATO has been acting in line with that logic.

It is clear, at the same time, that the best way to secure our liberty is by nourishing it – by upholding our values at home, and advocating them abroad. It is absolutely vital that we continue to believe in the power of open, democratic societies and liberal economic systems -- and that we continue to invest in those achievements. If we do, the vitality and prosperity of our societies will continue to resonate, and to serve as a shining example for other countries to follow.

Rather than to impose our own beliefs, we should help countries that are interested in emulating our success -- and there are many. We should encourage these countries to open up their societies too -- as the only way to meet the challenge of globalisation, to provide their people with the basic needs of modern life, and prevent lawlessness and terrorism from taking root. And we should advise and assist interested countries in breaking free from the past, by introducing democratic, economic and also military reforms.

NATO has acted in line with this logic, as well. Over the past fifteen years, the Alliance has built up a wide network of security relationships -- all over Europe and into Central Asia. Switzerland is a part of this network, and an active NATO Partner, but so are countries like Moldova and Sweden. Through this network of security relationships, we have not only been able to promote our values. We have also fostered a genuine Euro-Atlantic security culture -- a strong disposition to tackle common security problems by working together. And we have greatly improved the ability of our military forces to cooperate in meeting, and defeating, such common challenges.

NATO’s enlargement process, alongside that of the European Union, has also enhanced our own liberty by extending it to others. NATO has extended a unique zone of security throughout our continent. Both enlargement processes of NATO and the EU have given – and continue to give – our eastern neighbours new confidence in their own future. And in so doing, they enhance prosperity and security for us all.

I have mentioned the European Union. Especially here in Switzerland, I attach importance to highlighting the role of other international organisations too – notably the United Nations, and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.In today’s security environment, we will increasingly need to apply political, military, economic and other instruments in a well-coordinated way. That means we have to achieve a new level of cooperation between the world’s established international organisations, in which we reallycomplement and reinforce each other’s efforts. And I would like to add that this also goes for the private enterprises and business sector that has its own special responsibility in this field.

For the past ten years, we have worked effectively on the ground in bringing peace and stability to the Balkans. However, we must be more ambitious, and develop more structured relationships at the institutional level as well – to coordinate strategically, not just cooperate tactically. The opportunity that I had last year to address the UN Security Council was an important step in this direction. Kofi Annan’s recent proposals for UN reform provide a further stimulus for fresh thinking. And we also need closer contacts between NATO and the OSCE, where progress has been rather slower.

Above all, however, we need a truly strategic partnership between NATO and the European Union. Following the latest round of enlargement of our organisations last year, we now have 19 members in common. I am confident that that commonality in our membership will also forge stronger institutional relations between us. What we need -- and what I believe is within reach -- is a strong partnership that recognises the unique contribution which NATO and the EU each make to the stability and security of this continent. A partnership that will help us not merely to protect, but also to strengthen and advance the liberty that we hold so dear.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the beginning of this 21 st century, we face several threats that are far more complex than anything we were up against in the past -- but at least as deadly. If the threats we face are more complex, so our response must be more comprehensive. A modern security policy must be based on a strong determination to uphold our values at home. But it must also include a willingness to actively promote those values abroad -- with political, economic and other means -- as well as a preparedness to protect them -- with military means if necessary. And the new security environment demands a new level of cooperation between international organisations.

NATO has a big part to play. The Alliance has long ceased to be a static, “Eurocentric” organisation, geared exclusively towards deterrence and defence. Since the end of the Cold War, the Alliance has become a very flexible, political and military instrument, which we can use wherever our security interests demand it. That enormous potential is far from exploited. Which is why I am convinced that – well over half a century since its creation – NATO will continue to play a major role in protecting and promoting our liberty, and our security.

Thank you.

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