Updated: 2-dec-10 NATO IMS Speech



19 Nov 2010


by Admiral di Paola, Chairman of the Military Committee, at 2010 Young Atlanticist Summit, Lisbon

From the event
Audio file
19-20 November 2010
Summit Meeting of NATO Heads of State and Government - Lisbon, Portugal

Bom dia, good morning, bonjour, gutten morgen, uenos dias, dober din. 

Well, it’s really a pleasure to be here.  I’m here to engage with you and I’d like to be challenged by you.  That’s why I will really be short because the reason for my presence here, as is with the other speakers, is for us to be challenged by you.

Because we are on the verge of a very important summit, which will charter the road that NATO will take during the next 10 years and beyond and because we are looking into the future, none better than you young people can look into the future because you have the mental agility and intellectual creativity that old people like me don’t have, so please challenge me so I can try to challenge you back.

Very often we say that countries have no friends, only interests.  Well, I would challenge this argument by saying that, in a sense, NATO is a very special beast.  Why?  First of all, it’s because we have a lot of friends.  If you look at what we are doing in Afghanistan with 48 nations, it is evident that we have a lot of friends.  Otherwise we would not be there, Colombia would not be there and nor would Tonga if they were not our friends.

Yes, we have interests, but our interests are very special.  The Alliance’s interests, fundamentally, are our values.  It’s the defence and the protection of these values, which are also your values – not something written in a book – they are your values because if you are free, if you are wealthy, if you are here, if you can speak in a democratic way, it’s because of what NATO has been, and is, all about.  It allows you to be here to speak freely, democratically and to feel free and be wealthy because by your look, I believe you are wealthy as well.  And that is what NATO is all about.

And another thing that NATO is about is North America and Europe together.  So this is what really matters; all the rest can change.  The values and link between North Americans and Europeans cannot change because if this changes, there’s really no reason, at that point, for me to be here any longer.  That is what we are all about.  And, because, together, we want to defend and protect these values.  We don’t want to impose them on anyone, we want to protect them.

And protect what?  That is the issue – protect what?  Protect against the threats and the challenges of the future.  So we have to stop looking at the past because the protection of the values is what matters but to protect against “what” and “how” changes with history.  Probably, if NATO had existed in Flintstone times, NATO would have offered protection against someone tossing rocks because that would have been the threat at that time.  And then, eventually, we would offer protection against a bow and arrow, and later a Roman dagger, and later yet we would offer protection against fire because fire was invented, and so forth.  So we have to look to the future, which is why we are here.  We are here to protect our citizens from future threats, that’s what matters.  So let’s stop talking about the past, let’s stop looking at the Fulda Gap because the Fulda Gap is no longer relevant to your security; it’s no longer relevant.  And that’s what, I think, the Strategic Concept will say; it will outline what is relevant to your security.

Well, imagine that, at this very moment, in this room – something that has already happened in other places and in other rooms – somebody comes in and blows himself up.  It can happen.  That matters to you.  That’s why, to quote Kennedy – who in 1961 said something that you remember well and which was relevant at that moment – he said “ich bin ein Berliner,” which is why on 9/11 we said “ich bin ein New-Yorker” and then we said “I’m also Madrileños” and then we said “I’m also a Londoner” in 2005.  Because that’s what matters.  That’s the real threat.

And imagine that you are in your house and, suddenly, an explosion occurs within your vicinity from a missile armed with a nuclear warhead.  Wouldn’t that matter to you?  I think it would.  And imagine now, with everybody using the computer and the Internet, including myself, even though I’m not technologically savvy, but imagine that all of a sudden a cyber attack shuts down all of your systems, not only your communications systems, but also your modes of transportation and your energy supply.  And imagine leaving this room to go to the shop only to find that there’s nothing there.  There is no food, there is nothing.  Why?  Because there is an energy disruption or because there’s a disruption of the global commons, which are the avenues by which the goods come to your shop.  This is what matters with regard to the security of our people and what we must defend them against.

This is how we define our security challenges.  I have described them very completely because they are what matter to you.  And those are the security challenges that, I think, will be listed in the Security Concept.  We have to look to the future.  Certainly, we don’t forget the traditional threats, and although nothing can be excluded from the future, these new challenges are the most relevant and what will be used by the people to decide whether the Alliance is relevant to them or not, based on whether we can protect them from these threats.

You just heard me talking about energy security, cyber attacks or missile threats and I cannot think of anything more serious than an Article 5 event in the modern security environment, which is why the decision will, hopefully, be taken by the Heads of State and Government to move forward with regards to territorial missile defence.  More than anything else, it would be to protect you in the event a missile comes in your direction.  So that’s why it’s a very serious issue.  And that project would no longer be just an American project, it would be a NATO project and it would tie North America to Europe, and if this develops in an inclusive dimension into the longer-term, it could tie NATO to Russia as well, which is a radical change in defence.  So we have to respect and provide reassurance to our populations from many of the concerns that they have today and looking to the future and the best way to respect and assure them is to try to develop, in a positive way, the relationship with our neighbours.

Would you feel more energy secure if you had a positive relationship with one of the main energy suppliers or if you get into a confrontation with them?  I just ask you; you give me your answer.  So that’s why NATO has to move forward, NATO has to move out, NATO has to relate more with other organizations and with our partners, so I expect the Strategic Concept to place a big emphasis on partnership.  Partnership not as a recruiting tool.  Partnership is not a tool for conscription of soldiers or for countries to come fight with us.  No; partnership is one of the Alliance’s strategic tools to build a network of security.  Therefore, creating a more open NATO, a more humble NATO – humble in the sense of recognition that in today’s security environment the need to work more with others is critical.  Certainly the European Union is one of those organizations with which we need to construct a very strong institutional relationship.  It’s not just a matter of practical cooperation.  We cannot continue this way.  I think the prime minister of Estonia who spoke before me was absolutely correct.

And the other big issue is that we have to take care of security issues where the challenges and risks develop.  The matter of fact is that we have no threats to our borders, within limits, but we have threats without borders.  This is for sure.  That’s why we are in Afghanistan, that’s why we have been in the Balkans, that’s why we are off the coast of the Horn of Africa.  And why are we there?  We have collectively decided that our security was challenged and that it was better to be there so that your shops are filled with goods and so that your energy supplies continue to flow.  So that’s why Afghanistan is so important.  Because Afghanistan is recognition that, together with others in the international community, we care to contribute to solving the issues and the threats where they develop.

I want to leave you time for questions, so I will close here with a reminder.  If you are here today, sitting comfortably, it’s because there are people like you – young women and men – in Afghanistan fighting for you, for your freedom, for your safety, for your security and for your well-being.  So don’t applaud for me, applaud for them because they deserve your applauds.  Than you very much.

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