Updated: 02-Dec-2005 NATO Speeches

Doha, Qatar

1 Dec . 2005

“NATO’s role in Gulf security"

Speech by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at the State of Qatar / NATO / Rand conference

Ladies and Gentlemen,

My visit today is the first official visit by a NATO Secretary General to the Gulf region, and I am both honoured and pleased to be here in Doha. I want to extend my sincere appreciation to the State of Qatar for its generous hospitality, and for organising this conference in cooperation with the Rand Corporation and NATO.

The theme of our conference is “NATO’s Role in Gulf Security”. And I value the opportunity given to me at the beginning of our programme to set out why the security of this region matters to the Alliance, why NATO and the countries in the Gulf have an interest in working together, and how we could enhance our cooperation.

This conference is very much part of the increased political dialogue which I have been advocating both within the Alliance, the transatlantic forum for strategic security issues, and between Allies and their partners like the Gulf countries.

A political dialogue flowing quite naturally from the role of a transformed and still transforming NATO, projecting stability through its operations and missions, its broad range of partnerships and through its transforming military capabilities.

Why do NATO and the Gulf countries have to discuss security matters? Let me give you three key reasons.

The first reason is the changing security environment. The threats we face today are not unique to any of us – they are common across the globe, and none of our countries is immune to them.

Since the end of the Cold War more security challenges have taken on truly global proportions: from terrorism and failed states, through the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to the trafficking in human beings, arms and drugs. These threats, often diffuse in nature, cannot easily be contained. They must be addressed when and where they arise, or else they will end up on our doorstep. It is this conviction that underlies the need for seeing eye to eye with partners on these issues.

This brings me to the second reason why NATO wants to discuss security with the countries of the Gulf. It is the changing nature of NATO itself. Throughout the Cold War, we focussed on deterring a major war in Europe. Today, however, you see a very different NATO.

Our membership has increased to 26 nations and we are engaged in a wide variety of missions – ranging from peacekeeping in the Balkans and Afghanistan to humanitarian relief efforts in Pakistan, to supporting the African Union in Darfur, all the way to conducting maritime anti-terrorist operations in the Mediterranean Sea and running a training mission in Iraq.

And many partners contribute significantly to most of those missions, responding to NATO's determination to act together with others. Indeed, the Alliance has been building partnerships since the end of the Cold War. Today, NATO has close relations with countries throughout Europe, in the Caucasus and Central Asia. For the past ten years, the Alliance has also engaged countries from Northern Africa and the Middle East in its Mediterranean Dialogue. And we are now building new ties to Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and other nations.

Why? Because we all realise that in order to be more secure, we need to work together and have our actions well understood. And that by cooperating through NATO, we are able to generate the strongest political momentum and military effectiveness. Again, the fact that many partner countries participate in NATO-led operations vindicates that logic.

As an organisation that has been dealing with multi-national security cooperation for more than half a century, NATO has a wealth of experience to offer to non-NATO countries. Most importantly, over the past decade, we have developed the necessary political and military links with non-NATO countries to make our cooperation very effective. And that is why the new NATO is now in a far better position to make a tangible contribution to security more widely, including to Gulf security.

That brings me to the third reason for looking at NATO’s interest in Gulf security: the new dynamic in the Gulf region itself that has been unfolding over the past few years.

In foreign policy terms, the Gulf states individually and collectively through the GCC, have emerged as important players in their own right.

In domestic terms, as well, the Gulf states have demonstrated a willingness to meet the challenge of change. Indeed, many Gulf states have shown a strong determination to combine their proud Islamic and Arabic heritage with the challenges and opportunities posed by today’s globalisation. Qatar, our host country, is a perfect example of this kind of determination and vision.

At the same time, it is clear that this region faces formidable security challenges. Several countries in this region have been the target of terrorist attacks. And your immediate neighbourhood remains a flashpoint of unresolved regional issues, of proliferation risks, and of political and religious extremism.

A new security environment, a new NATO, and a new dynamic in the Gulf region –
these were the key factors that motivated NATO, in June of last year, to launch the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative – or ICI. In essence, the ICI is an invitation to the countries in this region to help promote security and regional stability through bilateral cooperation with NATO in areas where the Alliance has particular skills and expertise.

I am glad that, over the past year and a half, there has been significant interest in the ICI, and strong engagement – demonstrating that the ICI is meeting a real requirement. At the moment, not only this country – Qatar – has joined the ICI, but also Kuwait, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates. With each of these four countries, we have made good progress in developing individual work programmes. And there have been expressions of interest in the ICI on the part of Saudi Arabia and Oman as well.

So, all in all, the ICI has been off to a good start. But I believe that we can do better still. And as we move forward in developing this initiative and strengthening the relationship between NATO and individual countries here in the Gulf region, there are a number of key principles that I believe we should keep in mind.

The first principle is practical cooperation. Clearly, this is where NATO’s comparative advantage really lies. NATO offers a rich menu of possibilities for us to work together. These areas include, for example, cooperation in the fight against terrorism or in border security. But they also include cooperation in defence reform, in crisis management and civil emergency planning, as well as military-to-military contacts, exercises and education.

Allow me to clarify a few things in this regard. As I just said, NATO has tremendous expertise in security cooperation. But that does not imply that NATO would try to use a specific blueprint for cooperation with others. For example, even among our 26 member nations there exists no single unified model of defence reform. What you see instead are several models, developed in light of specific national experiences and distinct political and military cultures. It is up to any country participating in the initiative to determine which aspects of NATO’s cooperative experience will suit it best. We are perfectly aware that a one-size-fits-all approach will not work. But we are perfectly capable, also, to tailor our cooperation to specific national or regional circumstances and requirements.

This brings me directly to the second principle of our cooperation, which is joint ownership. Our cooperation obviously respects and takes account of the specific regional, cultural and political context of our respective partners; the countries in the ICI should see themselves as shareholders in a cooperative effort. In short, our cooperation in the ICI should be a two-way street based on the value added for both parties. Because a strong security partnership benefits us all.

The third principle is complementarity. There is important work being undertaken by the Gulf States within the framework of the Gulf Cooperation Council. They are enhancing their cooperation in a number of fields, including in the political, economic and security domains. And it is in this latter area that NATO’s efforts may assist individual states, by supporting and building on their current efforts. We also acknowledge that there are a number of other initiatives directed at the region, such as by the European Union or the G-8, and we want to complement and reinforce those efforts too.

These are the key principles that should guide the future development of the ICI. They are sensible. They are realistic. And they give us a solid intellectual framework for moving forward, and reinforcing the political dialogue and practical cooperation in which we have already engaged.

A key requirement in our early work will be to underpin what we are doing with a clear public diplomacy effort. Both NATO and ICI states themselves need to emphasise that cooperation is in our mutual interest, and in the interest of our populations. If we want our cooperative efforts to develop their full potential, we must do better at correcting misconceptions, overcoming prejudices, sharing experiences and building trust. And I believe our conference here today is an important step in that direction.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, in an era of globalisation, our security has become interconnected. Instability in one place can undermine security far a field. But the same logic also applies when it comes to the benefits of peace and stability: these benefits, too, will be felt far beyond the region itself. And that is why we need closer cooperation between us.

The Istanbul Cooperation Initiative opens a new chapter in this cooperation. It provides us with a new channel for political dialogue, and a range of instruments for practical cooperation in the defence and security field. In short, the ICI offers exciting new opportunities – for the Gulf countries as well as for NATO. We must seize those opportunities, and develop a new quality in our relationship.

Thank you.

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