From the event

Kuwait City,

27 Jan. 2009


by NATO Deputy Secretary General Claudio Bisogniero
at the Kuwait Diplomatic Institute

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me start by saying how pleased I am to be in Kuwait for the first time in my capacity as NATO’s Deputy Secretary General.  And let me express my sincere thanks to the Director of the Kuwait Institute of Diplomacy (KDI), Ambassador Abdulazeez Al-Sharikh, for organising today's meeting.  Only a few weeks ago, His Highness the Emir inaugurated the Kuwait Institute of Diplomacy here in these premises, and I am certain that under your leadership we will see a dynamic evolution of this Institute, just as we saw NATO-Kuwait relations developing rapidly during your term as Ambassador to Belgium.

Kuwait was the first country to join the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative in December 2004. It was also the first country to organise, in December 2006, together with our Public Diplomacy Division, the first NATO Public Diplomacy Ambassadorial Conference in a country participating in the ICI, and that was a very successful event.  I have learned that Foreign Minister HE. Sheikh Dr. Mohamed Al-Sabah, who is chairing the KDI, is considering creating a Public Diplomacy Department in the Ministry.  This would certainly give another boost to our common effort to explain to opinion leaders, policy makers, the media and the public at large why we need to cooperate in today’s world.

I want to focus my remarks on three issues.  First, I want to offer some reflections on the security environment that we are all confronted with. Then, I will try to draw some general conclusions from this environment for NATO and its relations with other nations and organisations.  And finally, I want to share with you a few thoughts on the Alliance’s developing relationship with Kuwait and the other countries of the Gulf region.

So let me first say a few words on our security environment.  It has almost become a cliché to state that our world today is characterised by globalisation.  By and large, the increasing interconnection between our nations, our economies and our populations is a good thing.  But unfortunately, security threats have also globalised.  And when we look at the emerging security landscape today, we see a host of risks and threats that do not just affect individual countries or regions, but affect all of us.

First, state failure.  Each year, the American journal “Foreign Policy” publishes what it calls a “failed state index”.  For 2008, this index listed no less than 32 countries.  Even if that number turns out to be too high, and even if not every failing state becomes a massive security problem for the rest of the world, the message is clear. The problem of ungoverned spaces that may threaten regional and wider security is not confined to pre-“9/11” Afghanistan, nor is it going to go away in the next decade.  And at least in some cases, outside intervention will be necessary to prevent an escalation.

A second challenge is the growing power of non-state actors.  One of the dark sides of globalisation is that it empowers fanatical individuals, by giving them access to technology with enormous destructive potential.  A terrorist attack with a radiological weapon is, unfortunately, no longer “science fiction”.  Moreover, several nations have already suffered cyber attacks against their information infrastructure.  Clearly, non-state actors bent on destabilising a country are no longer dependent on hard military force only.

A third challenge is the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction.  The nuclear non-proliferation regime is eroding before our eyes.  North Korea is threatening the fragile balance of power in Asia.  And Iran’s uranium enrichment activities and missile programmes are a growing concern not only here in this region, but to the NATO Allies as well.  NATO as such plays no part in the UN-led diplomatic process aimed at resolving this issue, but all Allies welcome and seek to reinforce the process.

Clearly though, even if we find a satisfactory solution in these two proliferation cases, the spread of technology and knowledge is going to continue.  Moreover, the growing scarcity of fossil fuels is already leading to a renaissance of civilian nuclear energy – and for this to happen in the safest and most reliable way, we need to boost the international non-proliferation regime.

Which brings me to our fourth challenge point: the rising demand for energy.  The last few years have seen a growing scramble for energy resources, and there is no doubt this trend will become even stronger.  China and India, in particular, will need to import ever increasing amounts of oil and gas to fuel their dynamic economies – but elsewhere demand will grow as well.  This puts a real premium on energy security – not only for countries which are net consumers, such as most NATO countries, but also for producers, such as Kuwait, as well as for transit countries.

These, in a nutshell, are some of the key characteristics, key challenges that are shaping our security environment.  You will agree that they do not, at first sight, inspire a lot of optimism.  So what should be our response?  In a world that is rapidly globalising, there can be no perfect blueprint for achieving security.  But I do believe that it is possible to identify a few key principles to help guide our actions.

A first principle is that security strategy that seeks to deal with the variety of challenges that I have just outlined has to be a strategy of engagement.  A passive, reactive approach may have been sufficient in the past.  Today, we either tackle the challenges to our security when and where they emerge, or they land on our doorstep.

NATO has responded to this new reality.  Active engagement is key feature of the Alliance today.  And this is visible, first and foremost, in our missions and operations.

As we speak, as many as 60,000 of our soldiers are deployed in Afghanistan alone, under a UN Security Council mandate, to support the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and to provide security for development and democracy to flourish.  We are also keeping the peace in Kosovo.  NATO ships are patrolling the Mediterranean in an anti-terrorist mission.   We are continuing to train and equip Iraq’s security forces, and exploring a longer-term security relationship with the country.  We have also helped the African Union with its peacekeeping efforts in Sudan and Somalia, and to build up its capacity.  And we have recently protected humanitarian relief transports, and international shipping more generally, with our naval mission against acts of piracy off the coast of Somalia.

As I said, these operations and missions are the most visible demonstration of NATO’s reorientation towards the new security environment -- but there is more.  Because we realise full well that military capabilities alone, and NATO by itself, are not enough to meet the many challenges before our nations.

This brings me to my second principle for building security today, which is the need for institutional teamwork.  No single institution, let alone a single nation, possesses all the necessary capabilities for effective security management.  Political, economic, military and other instruments must be applied in a comprehensive approach.  This is particularly true in Afghanistan, where the solution cannot be found in military means only.  So the key to such a comprehensive approach is much greater institutional cooperation.

NATO has also taken this logic to heart.  The Alliance has been working hard to build more structured relationships with a variety of other international actors.  But we are particularly keen to build true strategic partnerships with the European Union and with the United Nations.  Over the past ten years, NATO has already become a major “enabler” of a string of UN-mandated missions and operations.  Late last year, the UN Secretary General and the Secretary General of NATO signed a Joint Declaration which we hope will further deepen our cooperation across a broad spectrum of issues, and open the way for closer cooperation with regional organisations such as the African Union and the Arab League. 

My third principle for managing security in the 21st century is partnership.  Many of today’s challenges affect all of our countries. The key is cooperation in meeting them.  Over the past 15 years, NATO has developed relations with dozens of countries in Europe, Asia, the Mediterranean and beyond.  And today, this broad network of relationships offers NATO members and partners unique opportunities for cooperation – from political consultations all the way to participation in NATO-led operations.

For almost five years, these opportunities for cooperation have also been open to countries from the Gulf region, in the form of our Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, or ICI.  As I already pointed out, Kuwait was the first Gulf country to join the ICI, followed later by Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.  And we have been very pleased to see Kuwait making excellent use of the ICI process.

Over the past four years, our political consultations have steadily deepened, notably with the aforementioned ICI Ambassadorial conference hosted here in Kuwait City in December of 2006.  My talks with Kuwaiti officials here today have once again underlined their determination in taking our relationship further.  And we very much welcome that, and can assure you of NATO’s commitment in that direction.

Much of our practical cooperation has been focused on military-to-military contacts.  Today, it covers issues such as the fight against terrorism, border security, military education and training, and civil emergency planning.  Kuwait was the first ICI country to designate a special liaison officer at its Embassy in Brussels to deal with NATO-related issues.  It was also the first ICI country to sign a Security of Information Agreement with NATO, and to receive security certification from the Alliance.  Together with Kuwait, NATO held a workshop in May 2007 on radiological contamination in the Gulf Area and our experts exchanged views of how to protect civilians in case of a nuclear disaster.  And let me also mention that several NATO ships of the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) visited Kuwait in November of last year for a joint exercise. 

Public diplomacy is another important area of practical cooperation.  Since the launching of ICI, five international conferences were co-organised by NATO's Public Diplomacy Division and local institutions, in each ICI country and in Saudi Arabia. These, together with a number of other almost daily activities, are encouraging sings that our common public diplomacy efforts to build greater mutual understanding are bearing fruit. We know that there is a lot of work to be done in this area and we are ready to cooperate actively to bring it forward.

All these activities demonstrate that a solid and trustful relationship is emerging between Kuwait and NATO.  And in order to give even greater substance and direction to this relationship, I believe that Kuwait could consider elaborating an Individual Cooperation Programme with the Alliance, giving structure and depth to our cooperation.

So today, in an era of globalisation, in a dynamic environment, our security is intertwined.  Fragile stability in Iraq, Iran’s continuing nuclear ambitions, the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the rising incidence of piracy, and the pivotal energy role of this region – all these factors, and more, make it impossible to view our security in complete isolation from each other. It is this basic philosophy that guides the Alliance’s ever-closer relationship with Kuwait and its other partners in the Gulf region. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me conclude.  In just a few months, NATO will celebrate its 60th anniversary as the most successful alliance in history, at a summit in Strasbourg and Kehl, in France and Germany.  Its enduring success lies in the fact that it is different from all other alliances.  NATO offers a permanent framework for transatlantic political dialogue, consultation, and effective decision making.  And it also offers an integrated military structure that is able to back up and implement those political decisions when and where necessary.

But there is one other reason for the Alliance’s success. And that is a common mindset to address security challenges together.  In the past, this common mindset may have been shared only by the Allies.  But today, there is a common spirit of security cooperation that extends far beyond Euro-Atlantic area, all the way to the Mediterranean and the Gulf region, and even further.

As shown by the recent Arab Summit here in this city, Kuwait is a country that is committed to contributing to security – not just in its own region, but also further away.  And so I am confident that, in NATO’s endeavour to reinforce this new spirit of security cooperation, we can continue to rely on Kuwait’s strong interest and most valuable support.

Thank you.