Updated: 02-Jun-2005 NATO Speeches

University of Ljubljana,

31 May 2005

“A Transforming Alliance”

Speech by the NATO Secretary General at the University of Ljubljana

Mr. Grgic,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,

It gives me great pleasure to be here today, and I would like to express my sincere thanks to the University of Ljubljana and the Institute for Strategic Studies for having made this event possible.

I have made it a rule that, whenever my calendar permits, I will try to meet with university audiences. Because I sincerely believe that meetings with the younger generation are critically important to build a good understanding of the security issues of today and tomorrow, and NATO’s evolving role. I also very much appreciate to hear the views and concerns of young people, as well as those of the members of the strategic community. Therefore I will keep my remarks short so that we have ample time for discussion.

When discussing security today, especially with younger people, one encounters essentially two views. One view holds that, in order to be secure, nations should simply be focussing on their own territory. According to this school of thought, military engagements in faraway regions are not only unnecessary, but also dangerous and provocative. So the best way to stay secure – according to this view – is to stay clear of any major “adventure” outside one’s own borders.

The other school of thought argues the opposite. It argues that in today’s increasingly interconnected world, we need to look at security in a different way than we did in the past. According to that view, for security to last, one must move from cautiously trying to protect it to actively promoting it. This means that security challenges must be tackled whenever and wherever they arise, or else the consequences they will end up on our doorstep.

You will not be surprised that I adhere to this second school of thought. Against today’s global security challenges, geography offers no protection. Terrorism, proliferation, regional conflicts, failing states – these challenges have implications far beyond the places in which they originate. We may be able to ignore them for a while, but certainly not for long. In the end, they will affect all of us.

For me, therefore, any sensible security policy today must be a policy of engagement – to join together with a team of likeminded nations in dealing with common challenges.

NATO is such a team – and a very unique one. In NATO, Slovenia and 25 other countries are united in a commitment to defend their territory and their shared values – freedom, democracy, and human rights. And unlike other alliances in history, our commitments are not simply written on a piece of paper. NATO also has the means – political and military means – to give substance to its commitments. We can protect our values and interests when they are under threat. That is why NATO membership is such a precious commodity. In a team you are stronger than when you are alone. It’s a simple, straightforward fact.

In the past, the logic of the team applied mainly to the collective defence against a direct and immediate threat. Today, however, we must broaden this logic – we must also join forces in addressing the global security challenges that I just mentioned. We must reach out to strategic regions and build dialogue with, for example, countries of the broader Middle East. And team work also applies to cooperation between NATO and other organisations, in particular the European Union, the United Nations and the OSCE.

Since the end of the Cold War, this is exactly what we have been doing. NATO has been transforming its policies, its structures, and its mindset. If the Balkans are largely at peace today, and if countries in that region are now firmly on their way into an integrated Europe, it is because NATO got engaged. NATO was instrumental in stopping the bloodshed in Bosnia and Herzegovinaand bringing peace and stability to that country. The Alliance reversed the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Together with other international organisations, we are helping to achieve a self-sustaining, multi‑ethnic Kosovo, bymaintaining a robust troop presence there, engaging in the Contact Group, and supporting the Standards Implementation Process. Finally, working hand in hand with the European Union and OSCE, NATO prevented a potential conflict in Southern Serbia and ended the crisis in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia(1). And we also made it very clear that we look forward to welcoming Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia and Montenegro into the Partnership for Peace, once they have met certain conditions, including full cooperation with the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

NATO also plays a major role in bringing security and stability to Afghanistan, by leading and expanding the International Security Assistance Force in support of the Afghan government. After decades of conflict and years of Taliban repression, the country has made enormous progress. Last autumn, the first democratic Presidential elections were held – organised by the United Nations, and supported by NATO. And later this year, there will be Parliamentary elections – another step towards democracy that NATO will firmly support.

NATO also plays a role in Iraq. Whatever the disagreements we may have had about the war, there is no disagreement now about the need to stabilise the country and help democracy take root. By training Iraqi security forces, NATO is helping Iraq to hasten the day when it can stand on its own feet – as a multi-ethnic democracy, where citizens can live free of tyranny and free of fear.

Most recently, NATO has been examining how it could respond to the request by the African Union for logistical support to its mission in Darfur. Mr. Konaré, the Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, met with the NATO Council two weeks ago. And I was in Addis Ababa just last week to discuss how NATO can offer assistance, in addition to that offered by the United Nations, the European Union, and by a number of individual nations. The logic of engagement in supporting the African Union is clear: Thousands ofpeople are dying every month in Darfur. We, the world community, cannot turn a blind eye to this tragedy. If NATO can help in improving the situation, it must do so.

But NATO has not only been crucial in bringing peace to war-torn regions. We have also used the Alliance to shape the wider strategic environment throughothermeans. Over the past fifteen years, the Alliance has built up a wide network of security relationships with countries from Europe through the Caucasus and Central Asia. We have built special relationships with Russia and Ukraine, who are both key players in Euro-Atlantic security. Through this engagement with our Partners, we have 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.

Our Euro-Atlantic partnership is basednot only onshared securityinterests, but also democratic values. This is why we were so deeply disturbed by the recent events in Uzbekistan. We have strongly condemned the reported use of excessive and disproportionate force by the security forces and fully support the UN, EU and OSCE’s calls for an independent international inquiry. We expect our Partners to respect and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms. We will continue to make this clear.

All this shows that there is no real alternative to engagement. Isolation is not a strategy, nor is indifference. We have to act, not look away. And we have to act in coordination with other major international institutions, in order to pursue the full spectrum of political, military, economic and other instruments in a well-coordinated way.

What we need in particular is a true strategic partnership between NATO and the European Union. The respective enlargements of NATO and the European Union have extended a unique zone of security and democracy throughout Europe, and given our eastern neighbours new confidence in their own future. This is a sound investment in our security. But we should also promote closer cooperation between NATO and the European Union in many fields. Together, our two organisations can effectively address the challenges of combating terrorism, preventing the spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction, dealing with failed states. Together we can also work more closely to reach out to the world’s pivotal regions – the broader Middle East, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. Slovenia, as a member of both NATO and the European Union, has an important role to play in promoting such a strategic partnership.

We also need closer cooperation with the United Nations. Kofi Annan has made it clear that in order to be more effective, the UN will have to rely more than ever on support by regional organisations, including by NATO. So once again, it makes sense to build closer ties between us.

And last but certainly not least, we need to develop closer ties between NATO and the OSCE. This year, Slovenia holds the Chairmanship-in-Office of the OSCE, and together with Minister Rupel we are working towards further enhancing NATO-OSCE cooperation.

All this adds up to a very ambitious agenda – one that will require much hard work on the part of NATO and other international actors. In NATO, we are changing the way we think about security, and the way in which we protect and promote security.

I am confident that we can see this transformation through. Because we are a team. And we are very glad to have Slovenia on that team.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,

Compared to the early days of NATO, our job of providing security and projecting stability has become far more complicated. But security can be shaped – by developing the right ideas; by devising the right policies; and by making the right choices. To me, the most important choice is clear: we must put engagement over isolation. If we manage to do that, then we can make a difference.

Indeed, you can make a difference. After all, this 21 st century is your century. You are the leaders of tomorrow. Your generation will produce the politicians, the thinkers and the do-ers to meet the challenges of the future. Many of you will work at international companies and organisations – maybe some of you will end up working at NATO. And perhaps, who knows, one of you will even end up as NATO Secretary General.

How you will approach the challenges of the future is up to you. But I am certain that your generation, just like my own, will come to realise that NATO is a precious achievement – an instrument that can deliver real security in new ways and in new places. This is why this Alliance remains the cornerstone of our Atlantic community – a community of values, and a community of action.

(1) Turkey recognises the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name

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