Tokyo, Japan

13 Dec 2007

“Meeting the Security Challenges of Globalisation”

Speech by the NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer



Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a real pleasure to be back in Japan.  I still have very fond memories of my previous visit to your country two-and-a-half years ago.  The fact that I am once again here in Tokyo during my tenure as Secretary General demonstrates that NATO and Japan share an increasingly overlapping security agenda, and are working ever more closely together to meet a range of common challenges. 

It is clear for everyone to see that the international security environment remains highly volatile.  As much as we may have hoped that the popularity of democracy and of the free market economy would make our world a safer place, we have to recognise that such hopes have not been borne out by reality. 

We live in a world where individual fanatics with access to new technologies, money and sophisticated weapons can do as much damage to us as traditional nation states.  It is a world where neither geography, nor neutrality, provides protection; a world in which a country can be brought down not by an invading army, but by a cyber attack against its information infrastructure.  What is more, it is a world where bad things have a habit of combining to produce even worse threats.  Drug production in Afghanistan is now largely financing Al Qaeda and the Taliban.  And climate change poses not just ecological challenges but also security threats.  Darfur, for instance, is largely a conflict over who controls declining areas of arable land.

In short, in our world today, security is not a natural state of affairs.  Security has to be worked for.  And it has to be maintained.  More than ever, this requires organised international cooperation.  And it requires strong and robust institutions.

I have the privilege of being the Secretary General of one of the most important of all these institutions: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  It is an institution with a very solid track record in providing security – a track record that now stretches over almost six decades. 

Over that period, NATO has gone through a major evolution.  Initially, NATO was an Alliance for the territorial defence of Western Europe in the Cold War.  After the Cold War, however, NATO turned into a major framework for overcoming the remnants of Europe’s division.  With the help of NATO’s partnership policies, we were able to support the new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe in managing their political and economic transition.  And NATO’s readiness to accept new members was a strong incentive for aspirant countries to implement necessary reforms. 

We also developed distinct relations with Ukraine.  Through our Partnerships with the countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia we were able to lay the foundations of a new cooperative security culture.  We started a dialogue with Europe’s Southern neighbours, namely the countries in Northern Africa and the broader Middle East.  And last, but certainly not least, we also built a totally new relationship with Russia – a relationship in which we cooperate on areas of common interest, but which also allows us to air our differences.

NATO also became indispensable for ending the Balkan wars.  In 1995, NATO troops deployed to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and we kept the peace there for nine years, until the improving security situation allowed us to conclude our mission.  Four years later, we also deployed to Kosovo.  As in Bosnia, we vowed to stay until peace would take firm root.  And we will stick to our promise.  You are all aware that this region is now at a critical juncture.  But regardless of Kosovo’s future status, NATO will continue to play its part – to help advance the Euro-Atlantic integration of the entire Balkans.

As fundamental as this evolution of NATO may appear, it is not the end of the story.  Safeguarding our security in an increasingly globalised world requires us to look beyond Europe.

With more than 50,000 troops under NATO command, the Alliance is currently engaged in several UN-mandated operations and missions, on three different continents.  In addition to our mission in the Balkans, we are engaged in combat as well as peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan; NATO ships are patrolling the Mediterranean Sea in a naval anti-terrorist mission; and NATO planes are airlifting African Union troops to the Sudanese crisis region of Darfur.  NATO provided humanitarian relief to Pakistan after the October 2005 earthquake.  And we are training Iraqi security forces, both inside and outside of the country.

This is a broad spectrum of activities indeed – and some have raised the question whether NATO is trying to take on every problem thrown up by globalisation.  I can reassure you that this is not the case.  NATO has no desire to be the world’s policeman.  In an age where threats to our security can emerge from anywhere in the world, where distance has lost all meaning, and barriers to the movement of people, technology and ideas – both good and bad – have collapsed, we know that we have to take a pro-active stance to promote stability and security.  But we also know that this is not possible by winning military victories in the classical sense – that we need to help build effective institutions, and to work closely together with local and other international actors.

Which brings me to another major characteristic of today’s NATO – its developing relations with other institutions.  In the Balkans and even more in Afghanistan, we cannot succeed with military forces alone, but have to work closely with others.  Clearly, marginalising the Taliban as a political and military threat is crucial for Afghanistan’s future – and to accomplish that, you need sufficient military power.  But we are also keenly aware that security and development are two sides of the same coin.  That is why rather than try to deal with Afghanistan alone, we are calling on the United Nations, the European Union, the World Bank, the G8 and other institutions to contribute their expertise and resources to this common effort.  Only such a comprehensive approach will allow us to create lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Let me be very clear: success in Afghanistan is not the prerogative of only a few.  It is a matter for the entire civilised world.  If we would allow this country to become a “black hole” again, and a safe haven for the world’s deadliest terrorists, the entire international community would soon feel the consequences.  Yes, the price of our engagement is considerable – in political and economic terms, as well as in terms of the lives of our soldiers and development workers that we put at risk.  But the price of indifference would be much, much higher.   If the international community stays the course, and stays together, we will find that we can turn Afghanistan into a country that is no longer a threat to our security.

And this brings me to another key feature of NATO today: its partnerships with other nations.  During the Cold War, NATO did not really need other countries to fulfil its essential security mission of self defence.  Allied solidarity was enough.  But today, as we send our forces on complex missions well away from our traditional area of operations, we realise full well just how much the success of these missions depends on the support by other nations, and notably our partners.  Some partners help us with military bases, air fields and transit rights.  Some provide forces to our missions, and some provide us with intelligence and expertise.

But our partners benefit, too.  By working together with NATO, they contribute to their own security.  After all, NATO is a framework that they can use to make their own efforts more effective.  And our many NATO partnership programmes provide interested countries with material help and expertise in reforming their military forces and taking care of their own security problems.  In sum, when NATO enters into a partnership with another country, it is a relationship that benefits both.

So what does all this mean for the future of Japan-NATO relations?  Simply put, it means that our relationship is bound to gain in importance – and in substance.

Like the NATO Allies, Japan has demonstrated an increasing readiness and ability to assume security responsibilities well beyond its own borders.  For example, since the mid-1990s, Japan has played a most welcome role in the Balkans region.  NATO helped to end the war in this volatile part of Southeast Europe, but it was with the help of Japan that we were able to win the peace as well.  Japan is an important member of the G-8, and one of the world’s largest economies.  And it is of key interest to all the NATO Allies that Japan is willing to make its contribution to security and stability, not just here in the Asia-Pacific region, but in the wider world as well.

Japans’ commitment to the reconstruction of Afghanistan is valued by the entire international community.  Early on, Japan supported efforts to establish good governance.  As a member of the G-8, Japan has led the disbandment of illegal armed groups, and the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of former combatants.  And Japan’s support for strengthening police activities, and capacity development at both the central and the community level, is seen as equally valuable.

As I said earlier, we can only succeed in dealing with today’s security challenges – whether they are nation-building or combating terrorism – by combining all our efforts.  The international solidarity of all the major world actors is the key to success.  Japan has a lot to contribute, and NATO -- I would submit -- is a good framework for Japan to optimise its contribution.  That is why I welcome Japan’s important financial contribution to NATO’s Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan. 

Over the course of this year we conducted several high-level policy dialogues, such as on the occasion of the visits to NATO by the former Japanese Prime Minister in January and the former Defence Minister in May, and of the 7th Japan-NATO High-level Consultations held in March.  Japanese government officials have participated in various NATO-hosted seminars and conferences on issues such as non-proliferation, Afghanistan and reconstruction assistance, and they also observed NATO exercises.  Just next month, on the invitation by the Japanese Defence Ministry, the Chairman of NATO’s Military Committee will pay a visit to Japan.

What all this demonstrates is that, more and more, Japan and NATO have converging security interests, and are working together effectively to meet common objectives.  Indeed, Afghanistan shows that we have a clear strategic interest in each other’s success.  And that makes Japan – the country in Asia with which NATO has the longest-standing relationship – a truly unique partner for the Alliance in contributing to global security.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me conclude by saying that we understand the domestic debate in your country with regard to Article 9 of the Constitution.  And we are following with great interest the discussions on Japanese support to naval operations in the Indian Ocean.  These are sensitive national issues, and they are for Japan alone to resolve.  The message I would like to leave you with is that NATO fully respects the different national prerogatives of the countries we work with.  What really matters is not the degree to which our relationship is formalised.  What matters is that our relationship works – that it is making a real contribution to international security.  This is what it does.  And this is why we need to continue on our successful path of cooperation.

Thank you very much.