From the event


8 June 2007


by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
at the “Security and defence agenda” conference

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me always a particular pleasure to be back amongst friends here at the Security and Defence Agenda. 

Under Giles Merritt’s excellent leadership, the SDA has become one of the most influential think-tanks and contributors to the debate of security and defence issues.  It has and is still playing a valuable role in bringing NATO and the European Union closer together and starting a broad NATO-EU dialogue at the informal level which, I hope, will one day be fully elevated to the institutional level as well.  Indeed, in some respects, the SDA is actually ahead of the field -- your forward-thinking work on cyber issues, missile defence and counter-terrorism are good examples.

With the Riga Summit behind us, and another Summit on the horizon in Bucharest in the Spring of next year, the NATO Alliance is clearly in a most important phase.  NATO, and NATO issues, have frequently been put under scrutiny here.  And that is why I greatly appreciate the role of the SDA also as a sounding board for NATO’s actions and policies. 

What I would like to do this morning is not go through NATO’s entire agenda, but highlight two issues that I believe to be important for the Alliance today. First of all, Afghanistan.  And secondly, the NATO/Russia relationship.  I have chosen these two issues not just because they pose some major challenges for the Alliance; but also because I am convinced that they hold real opportunities for us as well.

              You do not need me to tell you that in Afghanistan, NATO’s most important operation, we have had some difficult, testing months, and some bad press as well.  Especially in the south of the country, many of our forces have been engaged and are as we speak, in serious combat to counter the Taliban and to provide greater security, carrying out our UN-mandated mission. Tragically, despite our best efforts, innocent civilians have been killed – by Taliban suicide bombs and roadside bombs, but I should add, also by international forces.

Let us be clear: there is no equivalency here. While our opponents do not show any hesitation to slaughter or maim the Afghan people with their indiscriminate attacks – NATO has done, and will continue to do, everything possible to avoid civilian casualties.  We are quite simply dealing with different moral categories here.

That being said any loss of innocent civilian life, and damage to civilian property, risks eroding the support that we continue to receive from the vast majority of people in Afghanistan, as well as from their government and parliament. It also raises real and justified concern in our countries as well. That is why I hope that Alliance Defence Ministers, at their meeting here in Brussels next week, will discuss concrete measures to lessen the negative humanitarian impact of some aspects of our security operations. 

First, we are improving the procedures within the existing rules of engagement and we are also looking at what measures can be taken to enhance coordination between ISAF and the US-led coalition, but most importantly of course also coordination with the Afghans. One example: in October last year, some nomads got caught up in fighting in Kandahar. The Afghans knew they were there. We didn’t. We can, and will, do better.   

In addition, it is vital that any future incident is investigated promptly to establish the cause and prevent similar occurrences in the future.  In the interests of confidence and transparency, we need quickly to bring in the right people to investigate; deliver results; and make those results known.

Finally, I believe nations, all of us, not only NATO nations, need to invest more in existing humanitarian funds, to help families and communities affected by conflict. These funds exist. I hope we can put more into them, soon. We must.

Let me however state here once again that I remain optimistic about NATO’s continued involvement in Afghanistan. We are seeing success.  The political will is there in all our countries to see the mission through.  We have made good progress since the Riga Summit in bolstering our military presence: there are over seven thousand more troops in the country now in comparison to last year and our total NATO troop strength is close to forty thousand – not counting the substantial American-led coalition forces.  All 26 NATO Allies are engaged in the International Security Assistance Force, as well as 11 partner nations.  And we have important military as well as non-military contributions from nations such as Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

We are now stepping up our efforts to train and equip the Afghan National Army. The Afghan authorities would like to assume full responsibility in their own country, as soon as possible, and if we are to help them to achieve this goal quickly, then we shall have to do even more, much more in this respect.  More Afghan army and police forces will help us to hold territory for reconstruction and show the Afghan population that their own forces are playing a more important role.  This subject will, I am sure, also feature prominently in the discussions of Alliance Defence Ministers next week, and I shall use that opportunity to call on all Allies to fully resource all aspects of ISAF, including in this vital area of training. We are by far not doing enough in training and equipping the Afghan National Army.

We are also making progress in implementing the comprehensive approach that Afghanistan clearly needs.  In Afghanistan and elsewhere, peace will not survive for long without jobs, electricity, roads, schools, or teachers.  More than ever before, crisis management, reconstruction and development demand a new level of cooperation between nations, and between nations and international organisations, where military and civilian instruments are applied in a coordinated way. 

Clearly, there is a key role for NATO in promoting this so-called comprehensive approach, and in making sure that it is effective, whether it be in Afghanistan or elsewhere. Quite simply, we need this to work, for our mission to succeed.  But we should never forget that NATO is not, of course, a development organisation. What the Alliance can do is create the environment in which reconstruction and development is possible.  But it is up to others, like the United Nations, the European Union, the World Bank, the G8 and other civilian agencies, to help rebuild the country. That is a call you will not stop hearing from me.

At the same time - and this is a further point that I will be making with NATO Defence Ministers next week - we must guard against calls, in NATO that is,  for increased civilian activity becoming an alibi for reducing our military efforts.  After all, the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan cannot take place if ISAF does not succeed in providing security and stability.  ISAF will continue its strong efforts in this regard.  And we expect Afghanistan’s neighbours – and especially Pakistan and Iran -- to play their part in ensuring the security and stability of Afghanistan as well.

You will not be surprised to hear me say that the challenge of Afghanistan also requires NATO and the European Union to redouble their efforts at forging a true strategic partnership.  I firmly believe that NATO and the EU carry a special responsibility, not only with respect to Afghanistan, but in advancing a comprehensive approach towards crisis management and stabilisation more generally.  On the ground, in the Balkans, NATO and the EU have worked together very effectively, and I am optimistic about our ability to do so again in Kosovo once its status has been decided rather sooner than later, I hope.  NATO also very much appreciates the EU’s preparedness to play its part in Afghanistan, including with a police mission, and I am confident we will cooperate effectively there as well.

Clearly, however, at the institutional level, more needs to be done to establish a more structured, strategic partnership between us.  With the right relations in place between NATO and the EU, both organisations will be better able to find, and deploy, the right solutions to today’s security and defence challenges.  And so I will continue to do what I can as NATO Secretary General – and I know that my friend Javier Solana does exactly the same in the EU - to promote such a genuine, strategic partnership.

In addition to our strategic partnership with the EU, NATO also enjoys partnerships with a broad range of individual nations.  And this brings me on to the second subject I wish to raise with you today -- NATO’s relationship with Russia.  Ever since the end of the Cold War, NATO has taken a very open, inclusive approach vis-à-vis Russia.  We have recognized Russia’s legitimate national security interests, and has shown a strong determination to build a new European security order together with Russia.

We are also cooperating well, concretely, with one country in particular when it comes to Afghanistan. That country is Russia. Afghanistan is a clear example that today’s headlines – and some of the overheated rhetoric – do not reflect fully relations between Russia and the West. NATO and Russia have come a long way together in the ten years since we signed the NATO-Russia Founding Act, and the five years since we established the NATO-Russia Council.  There has been more and more cooperation between our military forces.  We have agreed a comprehensive Action Plan on Terrorism, and ambitious programmes of technical cooperation in airspace management and theatre missile defence. As I mentioned, we have joined forces to build counter-narcotics capabilities in Afghanistan and Central Asia.  Just last month the State Duma in Moscow ratified the Partnership for Peace Status of Forces Agreement between NATO and Russia, a step that will allow even closer practical cooperation.

Because I know where we have been, and how far we have come, I am disappointed when I hear comments by President Putin and other senior Russian officials which suggest a tendency to look at today’s challenges through the lens of the past. I understand that there are Russian concerns – about MD, about NATO enlargement, about arms control. But I think the way in which these concerns are being aired and handled could frankly be better.

Take the issue of missile defence.  The proliferation of missile technology is not a development that should concern only the members of NATO.  As Secretary General, I have not only emphasised the indivisibility of Allied security, but also the need to have a frank and transparent debate with our Russian friends on this issue, aimed at concrete cooperation. We have done that, often in the NRC. And under the NATO-Russia Council, we have developed close cooperation on theatre missile defence. I saw recent comments from Foreign Minister S. Lavrov about broadening that cooperation, which I welcome. Against that background, however let me say clearly that warnings that Russian missiles might once again be targeted at Europe are unhelpful, unwelcome and frankly anachronistic. I hope that what we hear from Heiligendamm indeed means that they are talking about these issues. The NATO Allies and the US have been very frank and open on third site issues. Let’s talk, let’s engage.

Or take the CFE Treaty.  Russia has raised concerns about the Treaty, and so have the NATO Allies.  These are complex political and legal issues, that will not be easy to resolve.  But NATO Allies are committed to discussing them, in the NATO-Russia Council as well as at the OSCE in Vienna.  But NATO’s basic approach is clear: this agreement has underpinned European security for the past 15 years, and provides a degree of predictability and transparency that is to everyone’s benefit. Let’s do what is necessary to have it ratified as soon as possible.

Or take the old chestnut of NATO enlargement being directed against Russia’s interests.  Like every country, Russia stands to benefit from a Europe that is whole, free and at peace – with more democracy, more stability, more security, more rule of law and more democratic control of the armed forces.  A key criterion for admitting new member countries into NATO has been, and will remain, that their inclusion should enhance security for all on this continent, including Russia.  And, needless to say, no matter how many members it may have, NATO will continue to honour its commitments to Russia. Again, I can understand that NATO enlargement might cause concern to some in Russia. My answer is: NATO today, at 14, 16, 26 or 29, is Russia’s partner. It’s as simple as that.

Looking ahead, I believe that Russia and NATO need to do more to intensify our cooperation in those areas where we largely share a strategic vision, such as bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan, while finding ways to manage issues that are obviously more difficult, such as missile defence.  There clearly is a lot more that we can do together – in making our forces interoperable on peace support missions; in supporting each other in disasters and emergency situations; in fighting terrorism; and in consulting on new challenges such as defence against proliferation.  And NATO, for its part, is very much open to such enhanced cooperation.  We have never deviated from our policy towards Russia -- it is a policy of engagement and of being a reliable, predictable partner.

In a couple of weeks, we will mark the two important anniversaries in the NATO-Russia relationship that I just mentioned.  I sincerely hope that this will not be an occasion wasted, but an opportunity to reaffirm our strong mutual interest in a solid NATO-Russia relationship, and to establish clearer priorities for our cooperation in areas such as those I have just mentioned.  We need to get on with addressing together the 21st century security challenges rather than resurrecting those from the past, that is of no use.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have highlighted for you two key challenges before the NATO Alliance.  A fundamental element of addressing these challenges successfully will be political dialogue.  Ever since I became NATO Secretary General, I have emphasised the need for enhanced political dialogue among the Allies.  And I am glad that, over the last few years, we’ve had more regular, and increasingly constructive, political discussions in NATO on a wider range of issues.

As we prepare for the NATO Summit in Bucharest next April, we will need to further intensify our political dialogue, and to further extend it.  Clearly, dialogue only between the NATO Allies is not enough.  We also need enhanced dialogue with our partner nations, as well as with other international institutions. First and foremost with the European Union. And we definitely also need a continuing dialogue with the forward-leaning, intellectual, broader strategic community, such as the Security and Defence Agenda.  That is why I have valued being with you here this morning and why, to use a famous phrase by the current Governor of California, but without the Austrian accent, “I’ll be back”.

Thank you.