Updated: 24-May-2005 NATO Speeches

At the ”New


24 May 2005

“Reinventing NATO – Does the Alliance reflect the changing nature of Transatlantic Security?”

Keynote address by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I want to start by thanking the “New Defence Agenda” and the “Konrad Adenauer Stiftung” for inviting me. I also want to commend them for putting together a programme that raises a number of very pertinent questions about NATO – about where the Alliance is, and about where it should be heading. It is sometimes said that asking the right questions is the first step towards answering them. And that bodes very well for the success of this meeting.

Let me immediately tackle what has been posted as the main question for this morning’s session – Should NATO be reinvented, reinvigorated or just revamped? I do not wish to dwell on semantics here. It is clear that the new, 21 st century security environment requires the Alliance to transform. We are on the job already, delivering concrete results, and determined to push ahead.

NATO has been around for more than half a century. It is perceived wisdom that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. But I submit that the main reason for NATO’s resilience and durability is that it has been able to adjust its repertoire. Indeed, the Alliance has been able to deliver effective multilateralism through very different – and sometimes very difficult – circumstances.

Of course, institutions don’t have a life of their own. They can help deliver effective multilateralism only if nations hold common views on a problem. But institutions can be “agenda-setters”. In other words, they can instil in their members a certain sense of group discipline – a sense of “corporate identity”, if you will. And that will often make consensus on new challenges easier to achieve.

This sense of identity is clearly present in the European Union -- a project that relies on member nations to surrender a degree of sovereignty for the sake of the common good. The current debate on the EU constitution – whatever your position may be on the document itself -- underlines the extent to which the Union has become an “agenda-setter” for its member states.

But I believe that NATO has a “corporate identity” too. Of course, NATO nations remain fully sovereign, and the range of issues that the Alliance covers is more focussed than the agenda of the EU. NATO remains unique as a permanent, institutionalised forum for transatlantic security consultation, coordination and common action. It thus plays a key role in bolstering the broader transatlantic partnership. And since this partnership remains the foundation of global stability, NATO remains a very powerful “agenda-setter”.

I want to demonstrate this agenda-setting function of NATO by addressing five dimensions of the Alliance’s current transformation. One dimension is intellectual; another is military; a third is institutional; a fourth is geographic, and a fifth is political.

The first area of transformation is, as I said, intellectual. It concerns the way we think about security challenges, and about how we use NATO to address them. Clearly, a large-scale invasion of our territory is no longer our dominant concern. Today, as Henry Kissinger has put it so aptly, the survival of our countries can be put at risk by developments that happen entirely within the borders of another country. This is as true for the kind of terrorism that was allowed to breed in Afghanistan as it is for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. In light of such challenges, a passive, reactive approach will not do. These threats need to be confronted when and where they emerge.

NATO has drawn the right conclusion from this new reality. Simply put, we have moved away from the narrow, geographical approach to security that characterised NATO for almost five decades. We demonstrate this with our operation in Afghanistan, and with our training mission in Iraq. And we may demonstrate it again soon by offering logistic support – not troops on the ground – to the African Union’s peacekeeping mission in Darfur. Presient Konaré, the Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, met with the NATO Council last week. And I will be in Addis Ababa later this week to discuss how NATO can add value to the assistance offered by the United Nations, the European Union, as well as by a number of individual nations.

All these are clear demonstrations that NATO is no longer a “eurocentric” Alliance. But we are not turning into a world policeman – NATO has neither the ambition nor the capability to deal with emergencies all over the globe. However we do now all look at NATO as an instrument that we can use wherever our common security interests demand it. This is a sea change in the way we think about – and employ – the Alliance. And it offers new, unprecedented opportunities for transatlantic security cooperation well beyond this continent.

The second area of transformation is military. I think the fundamental point to make here is that no country can still afford to maintain forces just for national territorial defence. Each NATO member must be able to make a contribution to the full spectrum of operations. What we need, therefore, are forces that can react quickly, that can be deployed over long distances, and then sustained over extended periods of time. And we need a mix of forces capable of performing high intensity combat tasks and post-conflict reconstruction work.

Within NATO, we have made good progress in developing such capabilities. We have streamlined our military command structure and stood up the NATO Response Force. We have moved away from purely individual national efforts and achieved much greater coordination across the Alliance. There have been significant improvements to our capabilities, and we are looking to make sure that future missions can be better planned, equipped, and paid for. In sum, while we still have work to do, the Alliance’s military transformation is well on track.

In today’s security environment, however, military competence is not enough. The real challenge is to apply military, political and economic instruments in a well-coordinated way, and that means that NATO will increasingly act in concert with other institutions. That is why the third area of NATO’s transformation is to reach out and develop closer relations with other institutions. On the ground, this cooperation is already a reality. In the Balkans, NATO cooperates with the UN, the OSCE and the European Union. Similar links have been established in Afghanistan.

However, we need to raise our sights beyond ad hoc cooperation on the ground. We need structured relationships at the institutional level as well – to coordinate strategically, not just cooperate tactically. We need to establish such relationships with the UN – and the opportunity I had to address the UN Security Council last year was an important step in this regard. Kofi Annan’s recent proposals for UN reform provide further opportunities for fresh thinking. We also need closer institutional relations with the OSCE.

Above all, however, we need to strengthen the strategic partnership between NATO and the EU. The entire transatlantic community must come to terms with the reality of the European Union as a genuine security actor. Our American friends understand that this is about making the Union a stronger partner, not a counterweight, as demonstrated by President Bush’s visit to the European Union institutions in February following our NATO Summit meeting. Here in Europe, we understand that we must be realistic about our security role, and aware of what NATO already offers.

I sincerely hope that greater realism will translate in a much closer NATO-EU relationship – one that goes well beyond crisis management in the Balkans. We need a partnership that covers all aspects of modern security policy: combating terrorism, preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and dealing with “failed states”. And we need to better coordinate our policies for dealing with the world’s pivotal regions.

And this brings me to the fourth area of NATO’s transformation, the geopolitical dimension. Simply put, we need to look at certain regions of the world through a common transatlantic lens. This is true for the Caucasus and Central Asia, as well as for the Broader Middle East. Finding ways to influence positive developments in these regions has to be a joint transatlantic effort – or it will not stand much chance of success.

Again, we are using NATO to promote this transatlantic approach. We are deepening relations with our Partners in the Caucasus and Central Asia. We are enhancing our dialogue with counties in Northern Africa and the Middle East, and building new ties of cooperation with interested countries from the Gulf region. And I will get on the plane in just a few hours to chair the first EAPC Security Forum in Sweden. This is a new initiative to engage our Partners in free-flowing discussion of the many common challenges before us. And a further demonstration of NATO’s role as an “agenda-setter” not just for the transatlantic Allies, but the entire Euro-Atlantic community of nations.

These key areas of NATO’s transformation – intellectual, military, institutional, geographic – all underscore the comprehensive approach to security that NATO has adopted. But there is a fifth, essential aspect of NATO’s transformation that I wish to highlight before you this morning. It is an aspect that in fact cuts across all other areas of NATO’s evolution: The challenge of making NATO more political.

Simply put, we need to understand NATO not only as a forum for action. We must also understand it as a forum for debate. During the Iraq controversy, NATO was manifestly under-utilised as a consultative forum. (Not only NATO by the way). And we paid a high price for that. I am confident that we learned our lesson. If we want to preserve and strengthen NATO as a central framework for effective multilateralism, we must engage in multilateral debate.

Let us be honest. If the members of the EU argue about a certain course of action, or if the United Nations becomes the stage of a major policy debate, people accept this as a sign of the vitality of these institutions. Try the same at NATO, and you’ll get a string of headlines saying NATO is “in turmoil” or even “terminal decline”. Somehow, people look at debate in NATO differently. It must have to do with the Cold War, when the Alliance had to demonstrate unity at any cost.

But what was perhaps logical during the Cold War may no longer be opportune today. Today, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, proliferation and “failed states” pose new challenges. New security players, such as the EU, are finding their role. Other parts of the world are growing in relevance. We must adapt deterrence and established non-proliferation regimes to the new circumstances. And we must discuss new approaches to the broader Middle East, the Caucasus and other regions.

In the face of such enormous challenges, how could we avoid debate – and more importantly, why would we? NATO is the forum where Europe and North America come together to shape a common approach to these new challenges, including, yes, through the occasional disagreement. That is an essential role – one that we should encourage, not shy away from. Because it will ultimately strengthen our political cohesion, reinforce our operational effectiveness, and enhance our credibility in the eyes of our publics.

I believe that this is what Chancellor Schroeder was getting at in his speech at the Munich Security Conference in February. It is something that I have been saying almost since I took over this post in January of last year. I am pleased that the Allies now underscore the need for greater political dialogue in NATO. I am encouraged by the very good debates that we have recently had on such issues as the Middle East, Darfur, the Balkans and NATO-EU relations. And I am confident, and NATO leaders are committed, to further enhance this vital political role of NATO in the future. The serious security challenges before us demand nothing less.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, NATO is no longer a solo-player in security. Ever since our engagement in the Balkans, we have been acting in concert with other actors – with our Partners, as well as with other international organisations. We have worked hard to reflect the lessons of those critical years in NATO’s policies and structures. And we are working hard now to make NATO even more relevant to the 21 st century security environment.

Cultivating political dialogue will be the crown jewel in NATO’s transformation – a transformation that will enable the transatlantic allies to make an even more effective contribution to the international community’s efforts to protect and to promote security and stability. Because a “culture of dialogue” will underpin this transformation with a broad strategic consensus on how to tackle the great challenges of our age.

Thank you.

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