Updated: 28-Nov-2006 NATO Speeches

Small Guild
Riga, Latvia

27 Nov. 2006


by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
at the gala dinner of the international think tank conference
“A Transforming NATO into a new global era”

28-29 Nov. 2006 - NATO
NATO Riga Summit

Madame President, Prof. Freibergs
Prof. Ozolina,
Dr. Baumanis,
Dr. Kennedy,
Distinguished Senators and Members of Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,

It is a great pleasure for Mrs de Hoop Scheffer and me to be here today at this international think tank conference.

Let me sincerely thank the German Marshall Fund, the Latvian Transatlantic Organisation, the Commission of Strategic Analysis, and NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division for setting up this most impressive gathering, and President Vike-Freiberga for hosting this Gala Dinner in such an exquisite venue.

I think that a special word of gratitude to Craig Kennedy, Ron Asmus and the German Marshall Fund is in order here. There is simply no other major think thank that has done more to foster a strong and healthy transatlantic relationship.

For example, the Brussels Forum has become an indispensable transatlantic marketplace for ideas. And the success of the previous think tank conferences at our recent Summits has already turned this format into a cherished tradition. In addition to their political dimension, NATO Summits now also have a very strong public diplomacy dimension, and this is not least due to the strong engagement by the GMF in Istanbul and now in Riga.

Let me also say how much I appreciate to be among so many distinguished guests.

I am a strong believer in the interaction between the practitioners on the one hand and think tanks and academia on the other. Our security environment is far too complex to believe that the practitioners could simply rely on their own experience. Without the expertise – and the occasional provocation – provided by think tanks, we practitioners would quickly lose our edge. We depend on the steady stream of fresh ideas, even if we don’t always admit it.

I took on the job as Secretary General three years ago.

And from my first day in office I have pushed for a broader political dialogue among the Allies. My reasoning was – and remains – that only through a culture of frank political dialogue will this Alliance remain strong and vibrant.

Tomorrow, in my keynote speech, I will lay out how I see NATO evolve beyond the Riga Summit. For now, let me simply say that the organisers have chosen a most relevant title for this conference - “A Transforming NATO in a Global Era”. Clearly, NATO is not going to be the “gendarme du monde”.

Yet with missions and operations on three continents involving 50,000 troops, with new capabilities, and with new global partners, NATO is providing security in new ways and in new places. And with its commitment to dialogue, among Allies and with the think tank world, NATO is also acquiring the intellectual toolkit that it needs to prevail in an ever more complex security environment.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,

If we are to exclude for a moment the venerable "Royal United Services Institute", which was founded by the Duke of Wellington as early as 1831, think tanks that deal with international security were a distinct innovation of the aftermath of World War Two. They were a feature of an emerging transatlantic community – just like NATO. And, like the Atlantic Alliance, they were based on the realisation that in order to survive, we needed to explore new approaches to organising security.

In a sense, therefore, we both are 20 th century creations adapting to respond to 21 st century requirements.

It is a difficult, challenging journey for us all. That iswhy we need to make that journey together.

I wish us all a stimulating exchange, interesting and even irreverent ideas, and a successful conference. And I look forward to the discussions following my keynote address tomorrow afternoon. Thank you.


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