Updated: 14-Jul-2006 NATO Speeches


14 July 2006


by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

14/07/06 - NATO
NATO Secretary General visits Latvia

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure for me to be here in Riga today. Although my wife and I mainly came here to discuss preparations for the NATO Summit at the end of November, I am delighted to have this opportunity to talk about NATO with a wide audience in Latvia. And I am especially pleased to see so many people from the younger generation.

Let me start with a brief look back at where NATO has come from. Because knowing where we came from can tell us a lot about where we are going.

You all know that Western European and North American nations founded NATO to protect themselves from the military and ideological challenge posed by the Soviet Union. But from the beginning, NATO has always been much more than a purely military arrangement. NATO helped to create a strong transatlantic community of shared values, based on democracy, freedom and the rule of law.

From the outset, however, this community was incomplete. As long as Europe remained divided, the people of Central and Eastern Europe were excluded - even though they, too, shared our values. For a country like Latvia, this was a real tragedy.

Today, of course, all this is history. Our continent is no longer divided. The values upon which NATO was founded have now spread across Europe. Latvia and many other countries of Central and Eastern Europe have taken their rightful place as members of NATO and the European Union. And let me emphasise how proud we are to have such a staunch Ally like Latvia in our midst.

But why should we still be concerned about defending and promoting our values? To me, the answer is clear - because today they still remain vulnerable even after the end of the Soviet threat. Our values are threatened by terrorism. By the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. And by the de-stabilising effects of failed and failing states.

It is clear, therefore, that we cannot take our values for granted. They need to be protected. And protecting them and defending our security interests are inextricably linked. But how do we safeguard our values? There is certainly no single answer. But one key tool is NATO, our Atlantic Alliance.

Since the end of the Cold War, the Alliance has become a very creative instrument for shaping change. Article V of the Washington Treaty, which embodies the Allies’ firm collective security commitment to one another, remains at the core of NATO. But our Alliance is no longer a passive organisation, geared exclusively towards deterrence. On the contrary, NATO today is an Alliance in action. Because today it is only through active engagement that we can protect our values, and promote them more widely. And this new approach – which I call projecting stability - is demonstrated most clearly by NATO’s operations.

Our top operational priority is Afghanistan. NATO and the international community cannot fail their mission there. We only have to think back to five years ago. I know that some of you were still in your teens then, but I think all of us do know that Afghanistan under the Taliban had two main characteristics.

One, it was the home, shelter and training ground for the terrorists of Al-Qaida. It was the launch pad for many terrorist attacks including the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US. Two, it was a most terrible dictatorship which allowed no human rights, no women’s rights, no freedom, no democratic elections, and no hope. So it was a regime that produced terror both at home and abroad.

It is clear that we cannot allow Afghanistan to return to those days and become once again a safe haven for the likes of the Taliban and Al-Qaida. We must continue to help the Afghan people build a peaceful state based on democratic values. We owe this to the Afghan people and to ourselves.

This is why thirty-seven nations, including of course Latvia, are participating in the NATO-led and UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force. NATO-ISAF is currently expanding to about 16,000 troops and soon to well over 20,000.
Their mission is clear: To help the democratically elected Afghan Government to spread its authority across the country, develop Afghanistan’s democratic institutions, infrastructure and economy, and deal with the Taliban and the drug lords.

NATO is making a major military effort to provide security, together with the Afghan National Army, so that these developments can take hold. But of course this effort has to be matched by the civilian side: The G8 nations – which are meeting tomorrow, the UN, the EU, the World Bank, the NGOs, and others all have a role here and must re-double their efforts. For without security, development cannot begin; but without development, security cannot last.

As we carry out our mission, we are being challenged by those same forces who were controlling Afghanistan five years ago and who are aware that our success will be their failure. The Taliban, drug traffickers and common criminals thrive on lack of security, democracy and development. This is why they are attacking us. But all NATO nations and their partners in ISAF are united in their resolve to see the mission through. We will prevail, because we must. To protect our security, to defend our value system and to help the Afghan people.

But Afghanistan is not our only engagement. The Balkans saw most awful atrocities and violations of our values during the last decade. The Alliance’s political determination and military operations have made a vital contribution to stopping the bloodshed.

In Kosovo, NATO troops, with the participation of Latvian soldiers, still continue to keep the peace and provide the safe environment for the UN-sponsored status talks to proceed. The outcome of these talks later this year will be a key step in the further stabilisation of the region. And NATO will remain committed to Kosovo until that stabilisation process is complete.

But overall, today, the countries of the Balkans are well on the road to Euro-Atlantic integration and NATO continues to play its part in helping them to achieve the democratic and economic standards they are aspiring to. They have come a long way and I am confident that they will continue along this path.

NATO is also active in Iraq, where we are training Iraqi security forces to allow them to take on more responsibility for their own security. And in Africa, NATO is providing a range of assistance to the African Union peacekeeping efforts in the Darfur region of Sudan, including through the airlift of African peacekeeping troops.

The Alliance also delivered humanitarian relief to the victims of last October’s earthquake in Pakistan. Of course, NATO is not a humanitarian organisation. But if we are asked for assistance, and if we have the means to do so, then it is our duty to help. It is another contribution to an international order that is based on values.

These operational commitments, across three continents, demonstrate clearly how NATO is safeguarding the security of its member states, defending our common values and projecting stability. But our operations are not the only means we have to achieve these goals. Because the best way to safeguard our values is by nourishing them – by upholding our values at home, and advocating them abroad. By believing in the power of open, democratic systems and liberal economic systems. By helping other countries to open up their societies too.

NATO has acted in line with this logic. Over the past fifteen years, the Alliance has built up a wide network of security relationships – all over Europe and into Central Asia. 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 our ability to cooperate in meeting such common challenges.

This is also the rationale behind our cooperation with our partner Russia. Clearly, our strategic partnership with Russia is vital to strengthening security and stability across the Euro-Atlantic area and beyond. Of course, we sometimes disagree with our Russian friends. However, frank dialogue is part of a healthy relationship and we should not shy away from discussing difficult issues as well.

NATO’s enlargement process is another perfect case where our values and our security interests converge. This enlargement process has enhanced our own security by extending it to others. The enlargement of the European Union has helped to stabilise Europe politically and economically. And that of NATO has extended a unique zone of security throughout our continent. Both enlargement processes, NATO and the EU have given – and continue to give – our neighbours new confidence in their own future, and a strong incentive to reform. And in so doing, they enhance prosperity and security for us all.

This logic of integration through NATO enlargement remains as valid as ever. It remains particularly valid for the Balkans, where Euro-Atlantic integration offers the only feasible way forward. Indeed, Albania, Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are already making good progress in NATO’s Membership Action Plan. But it also remains valid for other parts of Europe, including Ukraine and Georgia. Last year, NATO and Ukraine started an Intensified Dialogue on possible NATO membership. With Georgia, we have developed an Individual Partnership Action Plan that helps Georgia to better focus its reform efforts.

Let me clearly state that the NATO enlargement process is not driven by an artificial deadline. It was, is, and remains a performance-based process. But once a country has done what we expect from it, we must do our part of the deal – and open NATO’s doors. If they are ready, we are ready.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the end of November, Riga will host a Summit meeting of NATO’s Heads of State and Government. The Riga Summit will consolidate and reinforce the evolution of NATO to continue to defend the interests and values of its member states, of course maintaining the Article V commitment at its heart. In this very city the leaders of NATO nations will further shape the Alliance in view of 21st century challenges.

You will not be surprised that our operations and missions will be high on the agenda. I expect the Heads of State and Government to underline their unrelenting commitment to Afghanistan. They will also reconfirm NATO’s engagement in Kosovo. Depending on developments on the ground and in the UN, they may also take further steps in continuing NATO’s assistance to efforts to deal with the Darfur crisis.

NATO leaders will also take steps to ensure that the Alliance’s military capabilities continue to match its political goals. As we engage in operations well away from home, we need the right forces and equipment to carry out these challenging missions.

The Summit will also have a strong political dimension. Since I became Secretary General, I have continuously defended the value of NATO as an essential forum for political dialogue among the Allies. Our organisation brings together North America and Europe in a strong partnership. I think we should also use it more effectively to consult on a broad range of issues of interest to Allies. These discussions need not be followed by collective NATO action. But using NATO to consult each other is a natural part of a healthy transatlantic relationship. I expect Allies will continue to do that also in Riga and exchange views on the most burning security issues of the day.

On enlargement, I do not expect the Summit to issue further invitations for membership. But we will certainly strongly confirm our open door policy and encourage aspirants to continue to work towards achieving the necessary standards. And NATO will stand ready to continue to assist their reform agenda.

The Summit will also strengthen our partnerships. We will reinforce our relations with our partners across the Euro-Atlantic area. We will also build on our Mediterranean Dialogue with 6 Arab countries and Israel, and our Istanbul Cooperation Initiative with four Gulf countries. In this vein, we are developing a NATO Training Initiative for consideration at the Summit.

But we also want to look beyond the Euro-Atlantic region and the broader Middle East. Countries like Australia and New Zealand participate in our operations and put their soldiers’ lives in line together with our soldiers. There are also other countries who share our values and have the potential to contribute to our operations. We would like to strengthen our dialogue with these countries, too. This will not turn NATO into a global organisation. But we do face global threats – terrorism, WMD – and we do need global partners.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am conscious that such summit meetings bring with them a degree of inconvenience for the host nation in terms of security. But the Riga Summit is vital to ensure that NATO remains fully capable of protecting Allies’ security interests and values. I am deeply grateful to the Government and people of Latvia for offering to host the summit here – I can think of no better place as a symbol both of what NATO has achieved, and what NATO represents.

Thank you.

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