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Responding to Daunting Challenges

 

Responding to Daunting Challenges

Speech by the Deputy Secretary General of NATO, Ambassador Alessandro Minuto Rizzo, to the Atlantic Treaty Association. Bled, Slovenia - 4 October 2001.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We gather here in a somber time. A time when we are still shocked and revolted by the barbaric terrorist attacks on the United States. A time when, for people all over the world, the sense of safety and security to which we had finally begun to take for granted was ripped away. A time when we have now to look afresh at the challenges we face, and how best to meet them.

Of course, a changing security environment is nothing new to the Atlantic community. When the Soviet Union crumbled a decade ago, the tenets on which security had been built, and preserved, for forty years began to crumble. Gone was the clear adversary. Gone were the obvious tools to deter the adversary. Gone was the certainty that an effective armed forces was all it took to preserve our security.

Instead, we have faced new challenges. States went to war with themselves and their neighbors, but exported the effects to us all. New democracies struggled to adjust to the Darwinian systems of the Western world. Weapons that had once been under effective control were suddenly at risk of falling into the wrong hands. And security relationships that had stood us in good stead for decades were suddenly called into question.

These were daunting challenges indeed. But the Atlantic community responded to them, in flexible and forward-looking ways, to preserve our security in a radically new environment. We built relationships with the new democracies, to give them an anchor, and sometimes also a rudder. We took troops that had been equipped and trained for a defensive war, and deployed them into peacekeeping missions far from home. We took steps to prevent the proliferation of technologies and weapons that could put our citizens and our soldiers at risk. And we have been rebalancing burdens to ensure that both sides of the Atlantic feel that the transatlantic security relationship is fair, and therefore sustainable.

All of these achievements are very real. We cannot forget how much success we have had, how many potential crises have never materialized because we had the foresight to predict future challenges, and the collective will to act.

But of course, some threats are simply unpredictable. Before the 11th of September, who could have foreseen such a catastrophic terrorist attack on a major Western city? Not even Tom Clancy. But the best intelligence the world can buy -- not only US intelligence, but everyone's -- failed to predict that it would happen; or indeed, even that it could happen. And this tragedy reminds us all that we must learn to deal with a security environment that continues to change very quickly indeed.

Our initial response to this attack is clear. First and foremost, to stand with our American friends in total solidarity. Throughout the past century, the United States has supported Europe in its times of need. Now the United States has been dealt a brutal blow. Today, America's Allies are with her, in her time of need.

As a profound symbol of that solidarity, on September 12th, NATO's members agreed that, if it were determined that this attack had been directed from abroad against the United States, it should be regarded as an action covered by Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which states that an attack against one or more Allies shall be considered an attack against them all. On October 2nd, the United States Government confirmed that the attacks had indeed been launched from abroad, by terrorists from Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaida organisation.

NATO's essential foundation -- its bedrock -- has always been Article 5, the commitment to collective defence. Of course, this commitment was first entered into in 1949, in very different circumstances. But it remains equally valid and essential today, in the face of this new threat. With the decision to invoke Article 5, NATO's members demonstrated, once again, that the Alliance is no simple talking shop. It is a community of nations, united by its values, and utterly determined to act together to defend them.

September 12th also demonstrated that the Euro-Atlantic community today is much broader than the 19 NATO members. Within hours of NATO's historic decision, the 46 member countries of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council -- from North America, Europe and Central Asia -- issued a statement in which they agreed that these acts were an attack not only on the US, but on our common values. In the EAPC Statement, the 46 countries also pledged to undertake all efforts needed to combat the scourge of terrorism.

It is too early to say what role NATO and its members, or the EAPC, will play in the coming international struggle against the scourge of terrorism. That struggle will be long and sometimes difficult. It will require all the tools at our disposal, political, economic, diplomatic as well as military.

Traditional critics of US policy predicted a knee-jerk reaction, military force used prematurely, incoherently and without effect. They were wrong. Washington's response has been measured, and military capabilities have been placed securely in the wider context of a multifaceted campaign against terrorism. And that campaign will need the active engagement of the widest possible coalition of countries, all working towards common goals. The solidarity and determination displayed in Brussels on September 12th, by the North Atlantic Council and EAPC are a vital first step.

e must all stand together in the face of this scourge, to defeat it. NATO's members are unanimous: in this struggle too, we are united with the United States -- along, I am sure, with Russia and countries around the world. And I am confident that this is a battle we will win.

But we must also look beyond this immediate crisis. Our jobs, as government officials and military personnel, is not only to deal with the challenges of today, but also to prepare for the future. And if the attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania make anything clear, it is that the future is unclear.

We must recognise that new threats, of very different kinds, have already crossed a threshold that should make them the focus of serious concern. For example, terrorists are able to communicate with each other with unprecedented communications security - both because of the availability of sophisticated encryption technology and the fact that their messages are buried in the overwhelming volume of electronic communication in the world today.

We can also see that attacks with military-style effectiveness can be made by a different kind of assailant. The attacks on the USS Cole in Yemen, the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam, and now the coordinated hijack attacks in the US itself were direct hits against a nation's interests - conducted by a new kind of enemy. In the past, we might have expected attacks of this intensity from other States. Yet with the spread of technology, it is painfully clear that we are facing major threats not just from so-called rogue states, but from non-state actors as well.

To add to these complications, the Internet provides all the information one needs to build nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Missile technology, too, is becoming ever more widespread -- and as a result, ballistic missiles are posing an ever-increasing danger to our societies.

The list goes on. Globalisation offers our societies the opportunity to become more creative and prosperous; but it also makes them more vulnerable. Regional conflicts will confront us with a cruel choice between costly indifference and costly engagement. The scarcity of natural resources may have major economic, political, and perhaps even military ramifications. And an economic downswing, an environmental disaster, or a regional conflict could give migration an entirely new dimension.

The principle is clear. The 21st century will offer no shortage of tough challenges, and the international community is only beginning to figure out how to address them. I believe that three tracks need to be followed, if we are to continue to preserve our security in an uncertain future.

First, we must take active steps now to meet these new challenges from within existing resources and capabilities. NATO is already doing so. I have already mentioned the steps that the Alliance is taking in immediate response to the attacks on the US. We are also doing more. NATO members are cooperating more closely together to deal with the effects of proliferation. We are fostering a vigorous and structured debate to strengthen our common understanding of the risks posed by weapons of mass destruction. We are improving the quality and quantity of intelligence and information-sharing among Allies across the board.

We are also working to ensure that our deployed soldiers have protection against nuclear, biological and chemical weapons - so they will not be deterred by an aggressor who might use such weapons against them. The Alliance is working to develop theater missile defence systems to protect our troops in action from the kind of missile attacks Iraq launched at Israel and coalition forces during the Gulf War. This will raise the threshold for any potential aggressor, who will know his weapons have less of a chance of getting through.

International organisations such as NATO, the EU and the OSCE - as well as private NGOs - are also working much more closely together. These different organisations have all unique strengths. By working together, we are better able to tackle the full range of challenges we face. We are seeing the product of that cooperation today in the Balkans, and there is room for much more.

That is the first track: to respond more effectively to the challenges we can see today. The second track is equally important: to invest in our capabilities to respond.

Safety and security are taken for granted by so many of our citizens, but these do not come about by accident. In the Cold War, we spent hundreds upon hundreds of billions of dollars ensuring the safety of ourselves and our future generations. We must approach the new security challenges with the same vigour, the commitment, and the willingness to spend money on the right things.

When I took up my post as Secretary General, I said that I had three priorities: capabilities, capabilities, capabilities. At the 1999 Summit in Washington, NATO's Heads of State and Government said much the same thing. They directed that the Alliance take steps to make our forces more mobile, more effective in the field, and better able to stay in the field for extended period of time. I am determined to hold the NATO Allies to this commitment - and to stretch their thinking even beyond this into the future.

But doing so will take money, and we must all make the case for taking the steps now to preserve our safety and security well into the future. I am referring not only to armed forces, but also to a wide spectrum of capacities which could prove essential to face effectively the new challenges to our societies. Better early warning. More deployable civilian police. More effective monitoring of illegal monetary transactions, and more effective ways to stop them. The list goes on and on -- but for any of these essential capacities actually to be developed, they simply must have funding.

Now, I know that the global economy is in a precarious state, and I am aware that Government budgets are being squeezed everywhere. Let me be very clear: I am certainly not suggesting that other vital programs should be eviscerated in a panicked and excessive rush to fund security. That would be very much the wrong reaction. But just as before September 11th, preserving the security of our societies requires the right amount of spending - and spent in the right way, as part of the normal, balanced activity of any responsible government.

The third track: move NATO's agenda forward. The events of September 11th have changed many things, but they have not invalidated our agenda pre-September. If anything, they have reinforced the logic of that agenda. They have reinforced the logic of keeping the peace in the Balkans - because building stable, multi-ethnic states are our best insurance against terrorism emerging in the first place. They have also reinforced the logic of NATO enlargement - because the broad coalitions we need to respond make the notion of "ins" and "outs" ever less valid. And they have increased the value of our Partnerships - because the ties we have built to Russia, and even to faraway places like Central Asia, can turn out to be crucially important in an emergency.

If we were to change this agenda - if we were to alter our policies on the Balkans, enlargement, or our wider Partnerships - we would be undermining our own security. That is why we will not let the terrorist attacks derail our agenda.

This is where the Atlantic Treaty Associations play such an important role. You remind our publics, and our governments, of the security issues we are facing. You help to explain how we respond to challenges, and why. And you are important advocates at budget time, to ensure that the interests of defence are not drowned out in the clamour of so many other pressing needs.

For all those roles I congratulate you -- but I also encourage you to keep it up. The complexity of challenges we face is increasing ever-more quickly. And the pressure on government budgets is not diminishing. For both of these reasons, you in the ATA, and we in NATO, all have our work cut out for us.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Despite the terrible attacks in New York and Washington, we cannot forget how much success we have had, over the past decade, in building peace and security in the post-Cold War world. We have been successful because we had the foresight to see challenges coming, the capabilities to respond, and the determination to act together when necessary. Those are the essential ingredients for success -- and as long as we maintain our vision, our capabilities and our solidarity, the Alliance will continue to preserve the safety of future generations, in an uncertain future.

Thank you.

 

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).

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