Updated: 12-Dec-2006 NATO Speeches

Kuwait City

12 Dec. 2006


by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at the
NATO-Kuwait Public Diplomacy Conference

NATO – Kuwait conference on cooperation with Gulf countries
Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI)

Your Highnesses,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me start by expressing my sincere gratitude to you, Prime Minister, and the entire Government of Kuwait, for your initiative in organising this conference. It is another important step on the way to closer cooperation between NATO and the countries from the Gulf region. And the fact that the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s senior political body, is here today, in the first country that joined the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, underscores the importance that we all attach to this cooperation.

Indeed, “cooperation” may well be the central theme of our age. In a world that is characterised by the effects of globalisation – positive and negative effects – cooperation is the only sensible way to safeguard our security. That is why we welcome the efforts made here in this region to bolster cooperation, and why we all followed with interest the Gulf Cooperation Council Summit in Riyadh just a few days ago.

NATO, as well, has taken the logic of cooperation to heart. This Alliance came about 57 years ago, in very different circumstances from today’s. NATO at the time had to address the specific security challenges of a divided Europe. That past is long gone. And just as the Cold War has long since disappeared, so has the old, Cold War-style NATO Alliance.

Today, security cooperation in NATO – between North America and an increasingly undivided Europe – has acquired a fundamentally different character. Of course, collective defence and solidarity amongst Allies remain at the heart of NATO’s purpose. But, we are no longer concerned with the defence of Europe against the threat of a massive invasion by thousands of tanks. Instead, cooperation in NATO today is all about finding new answers to new challenges – terrorism, the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, and states that collapse into anarchy – into ungoverned spaces that provide a safe haven for terrorist training camps or the international narcotics trade.

What, in concrete terms, distinguishes this new NATO from the old? Three points stand out.

The first and perhaps most fundamental aspect of NATO today is the way we look at security. In a nutshell, we have realised that a territorial understanding of security is simply too narrow in an age of global threats. Rather than wait for the challenges to come to us, we must be prepared to meet the challenges where they emerge – even if that may mean deploying far away from our traditional European perimeter.

And so, today, NATO has more than 50,000 troops deployed in several different, demanding missions on three continents, nearly all of them under United Nations mandate. In Europe, NATO is keeping the peace in the Balkans, notably in Kosovo. In the Mediterranean, in our Operation Active Endeavour, NATO is conducting naval anti-terrorist patrols. In Afghanistan, NATO is leading the International Security Assistance Force, a mission that ranges from peacekeeping to combat operations. In Iraq, NATO is training Iraqi security forces. In Pakistan, after last year’s earthquake, NATO provided humanitarian relief. And in Africa, NATO is assisting the African Union with its peacekeeping mission in Darfur.

Let me emphasise that not one of these missions is about territorial defence or about achieving military victory in the traditional sense. And neither does NATO wish to play the role of a global policeman, standing ready to solve problems all over the world. But we do realise that, in order to promote stability and security in the wider world, NATO must take a much more active role – not imposing itself, but working closely together with other nations and organisations.

That leads me to the second key characteristic of today’s NATO, our closer relationship with other institutions. Afghanistan is a case in point. Success in Afghanistan is not dependent on NATO alone. Security and development must go hand in hand. Reconstruction and development have almost had to start from scratch; a whole new political process has to be created; fighting and nation building have to be carried out in parallel; and regional neighbours must be engaged. NATO has to do what NATO does best and that is providing security. We can help with the reconstruction and development but the main part has to be done by others.

So, in Afghanistan and elsewhere, NATO today is not acting alone. It is increasingly part of a broader international effort, acting in concert with other major institutions such as the United Nations, the European Union, and the World Bank. And, of course, we work in close partnership with the governments in charge. Again, this kind of cooperation is the only feasible approach to safeguard our security in a globalised world.

The third characteristic of NATO today is partnership. Promoting security and projecting stability are tasks far too great even for an Alliance of 26 member states. We need the support of other countries – countries that share our security concerns and that are willing to engage with us in managing common challenges. At present, 18 partner countries have forces under NATO command. This requires specific mechanisms for coordination and cooperation with these countries. But it also requires mechanisms to foster transparency and build confidence.

For all of these reasons, enhancing cooperation between NATO and the Gulf countries was as logical at is was timely. We face the same threats – terrorism, nuclear proliferation, failed states. We all have a vital strategic interest in a stable Iraq and a stable broader Middle East region. We all share a common interest in energy security, whether we are suppliers or consumers.

And there is more. Some of NATO’s operations and missions are taking place in your neighbourhood. I mentioned our ISAF operation in Afghanistan, our training mission in Iraq and our humanitarian relief support in Pakistan. And we very much appreciate the various types of assistance you have given us with respect to these operations and missions. So it has become all the more important that we exchange views on how we see the security situation evolving. We very much value the unique regional expertise that you can offer.

All these factors underscore why a dedicated structure for our dialogue and cooperation has become a true strategic necessity. About 10 years ago, we made the first step, when we launched the Mediterranean Dialogue. The aim was to put NATO’s relationship with the countries of Northern Africa and the Middle East on a new footing. And two years ago, after ample consultations with the countries here in this region, the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative extended our offer of partnership to interested Gulf states.

The Mediterranean Dialogue and the ICI have essentially the same objective: to enhance mutual understanding, build transparency, and engage in concrete cooperation on issues of mutual interest. Today, we can say that all these goals are being realised. The ICI has got off to a good start. Four Gulf countries have joined the Initiative already, and we hope that other countries may join at a later stage. Our political contacts have increased, and so has our practical cooperation, ranging from intelligence sharing, through military interoperability to civil emergency planning.

The challenge now is to maintain this initial momentum that we have generated. And here I dare to say that the opportunities to do so are better than ever. Just two weeks ago, at the NATO Summit in Riga, our Heads of State and Government decided to enhance all of NATO’s partnership mechanisms. This will offer a range of new opportunities for our relationship. This new phase of cooperation has three new elements:

First, there will be new opportunities for political dialogue and consultation between the NATO Allies and one or more Mediterranean Dialogue or ICI partners. This will give more political substance to both frameworks, and make them more responsive to unfolding events.

Second, our Mediterranean Dialogue and ICI partners will now be able to benefit from the menu of the partnership tools activities that, until now, were only available to members of our more elaborate Partnership for Peace framework. This will further increase the depth of our cooperation.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, we launched the so-called NATO Training Cooperation Initiative. Through almost six decades of military cooperation among Allies, NATO has acquired a wealth of experience in training and education. By sharing this experience with our partners from the Mediterranean and the Gulf region, we will make another step towards the “human interoperability” that is so crucially important – for the success of future joint missions, as well as for our day to day cooperation.

In implementing the new opportunities for cooperation, we will continue to work very closely with our partners here in the region. We believe that joint ownership among equal partners remains a key principle of our cooperation. We also believe that cooperation is a two way street; that we should not duplicate the efforts of others; and that nothing should be imposed on anyone. All these principles have served us well – and they will continue to guide us in our efforts to fully exploit the new opportunities that we now have in front of us.

But I also believe that we need more transparency vis-à-vis our publics. It may be a fact of life that in most of our countries, security policy does not attract too much public interest. But that said, security policy without a public diplomacy dimension would be far less effective. We need to involve civil society at large – elite audiences as well as the interested non-expert. We need to explain the logic of our cooperation, and what our overall aims are. In other words, we need to bring our publics along. This is a joint responsibility of NATO members and partners. And this conference demonstrates that we take this responsibility very seriously.

Your Highnesses,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Never has cooperation been more important than today. In a world of globalised threats, we need a globalised response. But in order to craft such a response, we first need to better understand each other and the world around us. To exchange views. To generate new ideas. And then turn them into far-sighted policies.

How? By thinking and organising ourselves differently than we did in the past. By saying goodbye to the outdated security paradigms of yesterday. And, above all, by exploring new approaches of security cooperation – and reaching out beyond geographical, cultural or religious boundaries.

The partnership that is now emerging between NATO and the Gulf region gives us the right framework to do all this. If we sustain the momentum of this cooperation, it can be a major strategic tool for helping us to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. Our meeting here today is another welcome opportunity to make our relationship better known, more substantive and valuable.

Thank you.


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