15 Mar. 2008

“Beyond the Bucharest Summit”

Speech by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, at the Brussels Forum

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is the third year of the Brussels Forum and the third year in which you have invited me as a speaker. I am glad to use this opportunity to put NATO where it is and should be: at the centre of our efforts to strengthen the transatlantic partnership, to protect our security and uphold our values.

Before I begin, though, let me congratulate Craig Kennedy, Ron Asmus and the German Marshall Fund more generally for having established the Brussels Forum in such a short space of time as an unmissable event on the transatlantic agenda. This said, I hope that Craig and Ron have not totally used up their formidable reserves of energy and creativity on this year’s Brussels Forum; because in just three weeks’ time they are hosting another major GMF conference to coincide with our NATO Summit in Bucharest. This will also be a very special part of the Summit’s public diplomacy and – as you can never have too much of a good thing – I hope to see a number of you at the GMF event in Bucharest as well.

It is partly for that reason that I will not talk about the Bucharest Summit today. You either know what will be on the agenda already, or you will hear about it soon enough. Rather, what I want to do today is to look beyond Bucharest – at our next Summit in 2009, and perhaps even a bit further.

Any institution worth its grain of salt has to be able to deal not only with what is urgent, but also what is important. We must tackle immediate challenges, of course, but not lose sight of those issues which will determine NATO’s future.

As some of you may remember, about a year and a half ago, I called for NATO to begin work on a new Strategic Concept. At that time many felt that my call was premature. Today, I feel even more strongly that we do need this document and that we need to start soon to prepare the ground.

There are many reasons why we need a new Strategic Concept. One reason is that our current Concept dates back to 1999. And although it has proven remarkably prescient, and thus has aged quite gracefully, it simply doesn’t take full account of what has happened since its publication: “9/11”, Afghanistan, the bright and dark sights of globalisation, to name just a few developments.

We also need a new Strategic Concept for public diplomacy reasons. Our publics have found it difficult to keep track of NATO these last few years. A new Strategic Concept will help in explaining where we are, and where we are going. And why NATO remains essential for their security.

Another reason is the US election cycle. Starting work on a new Strategic Concept in 2009 will help to engage a new US Administration on NATO early on in its tenure. And with so many issues competing for Washington’s attention, both domestic and external, that is certainly a good thing.

However, the key reason for reviewing our Strategic Concept is a conceptual one. The burdens on NATO are greater today than ever before and this makes it ever more urgent that we have a clear strategic vision, clear priorities and above all a clear sense of the resources that we need to be successful. In other words, we need to answer the question: What kind of NATO do we want for the years to come?

If you look at NATO from a historical perspective, the answer should be pretty straightforward: it must be an Alliance that provides us with both immediate protection against immediate threats, and with an instrument to shape the strategic environment in a way that is conducive to our interests and values. NATO has always been able to do both. In the Cold War, NATO offered us protection against Soviet military power, while at the same time providing the umbrella for the political reconciliation and even integration of Western Europe. Since the end of the Cold War, and to this day, NATO has been a military insurance policy against any possible convulsion in Europe’s transformation, and we employed NATO operationally to address an immediate crisis in the Balkans. At the same time, NATO turned out to be an excellent framework for managing Europe’s longer-term transition, both through our partnership policies and the enlargement process.

Can NATO continue to perform this twin role in the strategic environment of the 21st century? Can it continue to provide immediate protection against threats, and fulfil a broader requirement to help shape a new international order? I believe that the answer to these questions is “yes”, provided that we base our policies on a sound evaluation of what is required. We need to be clear about the security environment we are going to be living in. And we need to be equally clear – and honest – about the limits to what can sensibly be achieved by our Alliance.

A few words on the strategic environment. Clearly, that environment will be characterised by a number of features that are quite different from those that determined NATO’s past. Globalisation will continue to change the security dynamics in many ways. Climate change will put many of our key resources like food, water and land under considerable stress. The global competition for energy and natural resources will re-define the relationship between security and economics. Our growing reliance on information technology will make our societies more vulnerable to electronic warfare. Proliferation of WMD technology and know-how raises the spectre of terrorist non-state actors acquiring means of mass destruction. At the same time, collective defence, NATO’s core function, will and mus remain a precious commodity.

So what does all this mean for NATO’s evolution, and for a new Strategic Concept? Let me give you my preliminary conclusions:

First, we need to take a deeper look at the meaning of collective defence and Allied solidarity in the new security environment. In the Cold War, collective defence was all about repelling a Soviet invasion. After “9/11”, we applied this collective defence obligation to an attack by a terrorist non-state actor. I believe that our work on a new Strategic Concept should be the opportunity for a broader discussion. Since “9/11”, the world has not stood still. If you are an Estonian, you are clearly worried about the recurrence of massive cyber attacks; if you are a Norwegian, you wonder what the consequences of global warming and the competition for energy resources will be on activities in the high north; if you are a Briton, a Spaniard or a Turk and have witnessed a major terrorist incident in one of your cities, you obviously wonder what is coming next; and if you come from a country with a high degree of energy dependency, you obviously wonder how you are going to cope if supplies are disrupted.

Many of these these challenges will not trigger a classical military response. But they will require Allies to support each other – politically, economically, and perhaps also militarily. Our security is indivisible: and to my mind that means that we cannot deal collectively with some issues – such as global terrorism – but then leave some of our member countries to cope all alone with cyber attacks, energy blackmail, or nuclear threats.

Of course, we are already looking at what NATO could do. Right now, in the run-up to Bucharest, Allies are discussing what “added value” NATO could offer in these areas. But I predict that, sooner or later, the debate will have to go beyond mere “added value” within our existing capabilities. We will also need at look at which additional capabilities we will need to protect our populations against missile proliferation or threats to our critical energy infrastructure. And what may currently look like the preoccupation of only a few Allies may soon affect all of them. That’s why a debate about the meaning of collective defence, and about Allied solidarity, has become inevitable.

This brings me straight to my second point: A new Strategic Concept must firmly “embed” the logic of the so-called Comprehensive Approach. Afghanistan and the Balkans are showing it today; our response to cyber attacks, or to attacks on our energy supplies, might well show it tomorrow: in order to be successful, we must increasingly coordinate with other – civilian – actors. The Bucharest Summit will hopefully send a strong signal in that regard. Many representatives from major international institutions, including UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, will attend our meeting on Afghanistan in Bucharest. And this is certainly a good start.

But we need to move much further than holding occasional meetings. And we cannot just rely on a talented international figure, such as Kai Eide, to pull all the strings together in theatre. At the very least, this type of coordination without a firm framework runs the risk to squander valuable time and resources. We need structured cooperation with the UN and the EU on the strategic level. And we need to coordinate much more closely on the tactical level as well, including with NGOs. There is still a substantial gap between the military and the civilian aspects of crisis management. As a result, we risk duplication or, worse, working at cross purposes. A new Strategic Concept should make the point squarely and forcefully: in today’s security environment, NATO is no longer a solo-player. The Alliance works best when it is working with others. It has neither the means nor the ambition to do tackle each and every challenge on its own.

This brings me to my third point: as we start work on a Strategic Concept, it should be clear that we will increasingly need to act with global partners. Let me be clear: I am not talking about “global members”, or a NATO that aspires to be a global policeman. But I would like NATO’s global partnerships to be better structured and not just linked to the participation of these partners in our ISAF mission. If NATO is to be capable of acting anywhere in the world, we will need this network of global partners. That is why I am very much in favour of expanding our contacts to cover issues of common concern, such as terrorism and proliferation. I also believe that we need to exchange lessons learned from our participation in peace support operations, and that we need to work on nuts and bolts issues such as improving our interoperability and our communications. I therefore hope that our cooperation in Afghanistan will serve as a model for the way in which we can combine our efforts to solve other pressing security challenges as well.

My fourth point: Even in a globalised world, NATO’s mission of consolidating Europe will continue. Thankfully, a Strategic Concept does not have to deal with timetables, “waiting rooms” or “fast tracks”. But it will have to deal with the principle of the “open door”. Of course, we all know about the power of enlargement to strengthen our Euro-Atlantic community. But the new Strategic Concept will have to make clear how to put that “open door” principle into practice, as Europe’s easternmost countries start knocking at NATO’s door. And if our governments and public opinions are to be confident in the continuation of NATO enlargement, the Strategic Concept may also have to say something about the conditions that have to be met before more countries are admitted in the future.

As you know, I have often warned against “enlargement fatigue”. 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. This, of course, is as relevant for the EU as it is for NATO. 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. Retaining this vocation to enlarge the European democratic space – and acting upon it – will remain a crucial part of NATO’s raison d’etre.

My last point. As a political-military organisation, NATO must become more effective. And a new Strategic Concept should be crystal clear about this. If NATO is to remain our prime venue for transatlantic security policy in a rapidly changing world, then this organisation must transform not only its policies, but also its structure. Given the increasing demands upon us, our activities must all be less process-oriented and more results-oriented. Our resources have to better match our priorities; and you cannot reconcile forever more performance with a zero-growth budget. Let me be clearer: I think that NATO nations are soon going to have to increase NATO’s budget, to match a growing list of responsibilities.

We also need a defence planning system that is more responsive to nations’ needs. We need a force generation process that is more predictable and delivers faster results. We need to exploit the opportunities of common capabilities – strategic airlift, logistics – far more energetically. And we must take a hard look at the way we fund our operations, so that all Allies are motivated rather than discouraged to put their capabilities forward.

I believe that taking NATO reform seriously means also to look for more synergies with the European Union. I would like to see much more pooling of our capabilities, especially in areas such as vital enablers, transport and helicopters, or in research and development, or in harmonising our force structures and training methods. After all we only have one common set of national defence budgets and national military forces. So it is absolutely critical that all of the capabilities that we are able to generate from this pool of forces are equally available to both NATO and the EU. If we duplicate, or go off in different directions, we will both fail. That is why our Finance Ministers should want closer NATO-EU cooperation just as much as our Foreign and Defence Ministers. It is why a new Strategic Concept should be unequivocal about the need for more NATO-EU cooperation. And it is why the elaboration of a new Strategic Concept for NATO should take account of the EU’s efforts to update its own European Security Strategy – and vice versa.

I have one more particular concern – and I have raised it from the start of my tenure: We must deepen and broaden the scope of our political consultations. The challenges today are multi-faceted, interlinked and can arise from anywhere in the world. So we need to do a better job of scanning the strategic horizon. We cannot just be reactive: discovering the strategic significance of a region only after putting NATO forces on the ground there; or waiting for Estonia to be cyber attacked before we wake up to the dimensions of information warfare; or waiting for another major terrorist attack before we step up our activities against terrorism. When it comes to proliferation, energy security, the consequences of climate change or of failing states, we need to anticipate these dangers and do more preventively to mitigate their effects. This can only be achieved through more and better transatlantic dialogue.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As things now stand, I hope and expect that work on a new Strategic Concept will commence at our next Summit in 2009, NATO’s 60th Anniversary. Anniversaries in NATO are not just about past achievements. They are first and foremost about the future. With a new US Administration in office, a new French approach vis-à-vis NATO, and a new dynamic in the European integration process, I believe that our 2009 Summit should produce a short but powerful document that reaffirms the enduring fundamentals of transatlantic security cooperation, and lay down some parameters for a new Strategic Concept. For want of a better term, let me call this document an “Atlantic Charter”.

Such an Atlantic Charter should be devoid of any technicalities. Just as the Washington Treaty was written in a language so clear and simple that, in the words of one drafter, “even a milkman in Omaha could understand it”, so a new Atlantic Charter should reiterate in clear and simple terms what this Alliance is all about: a community of values that seeks to promote these values – but also will defend them when they are under threat.

I am perfectly aware that neither an Atlantic Charter nor a new Strategic Concept will provide us with perfect answers to all the questions that I have raised here today. But this exercise will, I am sure, provide us with better answers. By revisiting the basic policies of our Alliance both documents will help to strengthen our sense of common purpose. And I am convinced that they will bring home and make clear to our publics NATO’s tremendous potential to shape the strategic environment in ways that the founders of this Alliance never dared to dream of. Thank you.