Warsaw, Poland

13 Mar. 2008

Keynote speech

by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at the conference on “NATO’s Bucharest Summit – transformation of the Alliance and Polish and regional perspectives”

Minister Klich,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me start by thanking you, Minister Klich, and the Polish Ministry of National Defence, as well as the Center for International Relations, for the opportunity to speak at this important conference in such an impressive setting. The Royal Castle is truly grand, but it also symbolic – reflecting the long history of a country that has always prided itself on its freedom, independence and cultural identity.

Not only the venue, but also the timing and the theme of this conference, are very well chosen. NATO’s Bucharest Summit is less than a month away now. The Summit agenda is taking shape. It is becoming clear that our next Summit will be a milestone in NATO’s evolution in a number of respects. And I am very pleased to discuss our Summit agenda with such a distinguished audience – including several familiar faces, such as my good friend Ambassador Nowak, the former Dean of the North Atlantic Council.

NATO’s Bucharest Summit will be a big event -- first of all quite literally. We expect some sixty Heads of State and Government, as well as senior representatives from several other leading international institutions, to join us in Romania for our discussions on ISAF. That will make Bucharest a very visible demonstration of NATO’s continuing transformation – our adaptation to the complex, global security challenges of the 21st century – and our determination to tackle those challenges together with the rest of the international community.

Afghanistan is of course, central among these new challenges -- and hence central to our discussions in Bucharest. The NATO-led mission in that country is the most demanding mission that NATO has ever undertaken. I was there with my colleagues on the North Atlantic Council just a few weeks ago, and there is no doubt that, for a country that has just emerged from 30 years of war and conflict, Afghanistan has made remarkable progress. Refugees have come back in their millions. Children are back at school. People have greater access to health care. You see more and more banks and cell phones. And the legitimate Afghan economy is flourishing. Still, it is also clear that there remains a lot to do, including for NATO.

At the Summit, we will produce an honest appraisal of where we stand with our Afghanistan mission. We will take a hard look at how we can do better in helping the Afghans to run their own country. We will make public a forward-looking vision statement concerning our own engagement and that of the rest of the international community. And we will reaffirm our strong commitment to the emergence of a stable and secure Afghanistan, at peace with itself and its neighbours.

Afghanistan will remain NATO’s Number One operational priority for some time to come. It will require a sustained effort, strong resolve and continued solidarity on the part of all the NATO Allies. As we all know, the words “Poland” and “solidarity” go together very well. And indeed, over the past few years, this country has made a major contribution in Afghanistan. Poland continues to show that commitment today, with more than a thousand brave men and women on the ground, vital assets such as helicopters, and its involvement in areas such as reconstruction and training. I will meet with Polish soldiers who have served in Afghanistan in the Polish Military Museum later today, but I do also want to use this opportunity to commend and thank Poland for its strong engagement in Afghanistan.

While Afghanistan will keep NATO busy for the foreseeable future, the Alliance cannot lose sight of its European vocation -- and it won’t. Almost twenty years after the end of the Cold War, Europe is still unfinished business. NATO’s mission is to help complete it – to continue to play its part in the further unification of this continent. And I believe the Bucharest Summit will be important in reaffirming that very fundamental, long-standing Alliance objective as well.

Helping to unify Europe requires, first of all, that NATO stays engaged in the Balkans. We have arrived at a decisive juncture in Kosovo. NATO is called upon to ensure that Kosovo remains stable and secure -- a place where Kosovar Albanians and Serbs can live together in peace. We have said repeatedly that we will meet that responsibility. The NATO-led Kosovo Force -- including more than 300 Polish soldiers -- plays a vital stabilising role all over Kosovo. And when they meet in Bucharest, our Heads of State and Government will no doubt reaffirm NATO’s commitment to see through our mission in Kosovo.

It is important, at the same time, for NATO to continue to help the entire Balkans region to take its rightful place in the Euro-Atlantic community of nations. We must avoid a division into “winners” and “losers” – between Balkan countries with more security, and others with less. And that is why I hope – and indeed expect -- that the Bucharest Summit will open NATO’s door to new members from this region, and reach out as well to new Alliance partner countries such as Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina, who have made it clear that they do not want to be left behind.

There is no doubt in my mind that Serbia’s long-term future, too, lies in Euro-Atlantic integration. And so we must make clear to Belgrade and the people of Serbia that there is no viable future in a retreat into angry nationalism. Our Bucharest Summit will be an excellent opportunity to send precisely that message – and to show that NATO is keen to engage with Serbia as well as with its many other partner countries.

NATO’s policy of partnership and cooperation with countries all across this continent has been a huge success. Over the past fifteen years, the Alliance has helped many of its partners to meet difficult reform challenges. We have also helped to forge a pan-European security culture that has never before existed on this continent – a strong disposition to work together in tackling common security challenges. And we see this reflected in the valuable contributions which many of our partners are making to NATO’s operations today.

NATO’s Euro-Atlantic partners have been invited to take part in our Bucharest Summit. We want to make clear to them our interest in developing our partnerships. We want to tailor our cooperation even better to their needs and requirements. We want to further engage our partners in meeting today’s security challenges together with us. But we also want to think creatively about extending NATO’s network of partnership relations to include nations outside the Euro-Atlantic area.

Here, as well, there is a key role for Poland. Throughout the 1990s, Poland was one of NATO’s most active partners – and it used its partnership relations to great effect to move closer to the Alliance. More recently, as a NATO Ally, Poland has been a major champion of our partnership policy in general, and a driving force behind the formulation of the Alliance’s course of action especially towards Ukraine and Belarus.

I am confident that we can continue to count on that solid experience and constructive engagement by Poland, as we look to further develop closer cooperation with all our partners in the months and years to come.

I have mentioned NATO’s open door in connection with the Balkans, but I want to emphasise it again. Because there are other countries, too, that wish to join NATO – like Ukraine and Georgia. As long as there is a gap between where countries are and where they want to be, the unification of Europe will not be complete.

And as long as some countries feel that they are not entirely masters of their own future, not least because others try to deny them their free choice, Europe is not the common space that we want it to be. And so I believe our Bucharest Summit should also send a clear signal to Ukraine and Georgia that NATO’s door remains open.

Against this background, I am hopeful that we will also be able to move the NATO-Russia relationship forward at our Bucharest Summit.

Prior to the inauguration of Dmitriy Medvedev -- whom I congratulated upon his election last week -- President Putin has said that he will attend the Summit. No one expects that he will stay silent on issues such as Kosovo, the CFE Treaty or NATO enlargement.

But we must not let our differences on those and other issues disguise the very real progress that NATO and Russia have made in a number of other areas – such as in the fight against terrorism, the training of Afghan and Central Asian counter-narcotics officers, or our Cooperative Airspace Initiative, which will have its NATO-hub located here in Warsaw.

A solid, trustful NATO-Russia relationship is vital to the security of our continent, and indeed the stability of the world around us. That is why we want to deepen our cooperation and to continue our dialogue, including on issues on which we may disagree. As far as NATO is concerned, there really are no “red lines”, and no limits on how far our relationship with Russia can go. I hope that President Putin will come to Bucharest with a similarly open mind as well. And that he will be prepared, together with his NATO colleagues, to give our cooperation a political push again, and a much-needed strategic quality.

Equally vital to the security of our continent is a solid partnership between NATO and the European Union. There is no question that both the Alliance and the EU have been instrumental to the post-Cold War reconstruction of Europe. They share fundamental, strategic interests in today’s volatile security environment. 21 countries belong to both NATO and the European Union. And, taken together, all that makes it difficult to understand -- and to accept -- that we have still not managed to develop a true strategic partnership between us.

Removing the lingering nervousness in our relationship, and forging such a genuine NATO-EU partnership, will require strong political commitment at the highest level in a number of capitals. President Sarkozy has said that it makes no sense to pit the EU and NATO against each other, and I fully endorse that view. I believe that the new Polish Government, as well, can be instrumental in bringing NATO and the EU closer together. And I hope that our Bucharest Summit, where the European Union will also be represented, will show that we are moving in the right direction.

Bucharest must also give a further push to the adaptation of NATO’s structures and capabilities to the new security environment. Of course, not all security challenges require military solutions -- but military competence remains crucial for dealing with many of them. And so it is essential that the Alliance maintains it military edge, and that our member nations continue to make the necessary investments – to make their forces more flexible and useable, and give them the right equipment to do their job. I am glad to say in the presence of Minister Klich here today that Poland is well aware of the urgency of this matter.

While we reinforce our ability to meet near-term operational requirements, we cannot ignore the emergence of several new risks and threats. One of these is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. In light of this threat, we are taking a fresh look at missile defence, and whether the system which the United States has been discussing with Poland and the Czech Republic can be complementary to ongoing programmes at NATO.

At Bucharest our Heads of State and Government will take stock of that work and give further direction.

Poland has been instrumental in putting another emerging challenge on NATO’s agenda, which is energy security. We have been looking at ways to better protect the security of our critical energy infrastructures -- and how NATO can complement existing national and international efforts to maintain the flow of vital resources. Again, I expect our Heads of State and Government to give further impetus to that work when they meet in Bucharest.

As we come to grips with these emerging challenges there are two key notions that must underpin all our efforts, and which I know are very important for Poland. One is the indivisibility of security. We cannot, and will not, allow some parts of NATO’s territory or populations to be less well protected than others. The second notion is one that I already mentioned, and that is solidarity.

Just as Allies are expected to assist other Allies in dangerous, demanding missions such as Afghanistan, those same Allies may expect an equal level of solidarity in facing security problems nearer to home, such as proliferation threats or energy cut-offs. The formula of the Three Musketeers – “one for all and all for one” – must remain our strategic compass as it has always been.

This all points to one final challenge that I would like to briefly touch upon, and that relates to public diplomacy. The Alliance today is very different from the Cold War NATO. Indeed, it is very different today from the NATO which Poland joined almost exactly 9 years ago. The international security environment has seen tremendous changes over the past two decades. NATO has transformed to respond to those changes. And of course it continues to evolve.

To my mind, getting and keeping our publics on board – explaining to them why the new, transforming NATO is unique, and vital to their security, while never forgetting the core function of NATO, article 5, solidarity, collective defence -- will be a key public diplomacy challenge in the coming years. It will be particularly important to manage the public’s expectations about our operations – to explain the dangers involved, and the long-term character of many of our engagements. We have to underline NATO’s enduring commitment to finishing Europe’s unfinished business -- but also its relevance to emerging challenges, such as proliferation threats and vulnerabilities in our energy supply.

Our Bucharest Summit next month will be a valuable opportunity to showcase the transforming, 21st century Alliance. But it will require a sustained effort to really make the new NATO understood, and appreciated. Here in Poland, you – Ladies and Gentlemen -- play an important role in that effort, and I encourage you to play that role to the full. Because in this age of uncertainty, there is every reason for the people of Poland to continue to see NATO as “the Alliance of their dreams”.

I thank you for your attention, and would be happy to take a few questions.