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Western European Union, Transatlantic Forum

Western European Union, Transatlantic Forum

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, Ronald Reagan Building, Washington, DC Tuesday, March 2, 1999.

Thank you, General [John] Galvin [United States Army, (Ret.); Dean, Fletcher School], for your kind words and for all that you have done over the years to strengthen and sustain the transatlantic partnership. It is fitting that as we gather to discuss the future of European security, we are led by a man who, as Supreme Allied Commander, oversaw the transformation of Europe out of the dark days of the Cold War. History will note with approval the vital and stabilizing role you played during that turbulent time. Allow me also to thank my friend [Minister of Defense for Denmark] Hans Haekkerup for his leadership of this forum.

The poet Horace wrote, "It is when I am struggling to be brief that I become unintelligible." I hope to be both brief and intelligible before this distinguished gathering.

When I was in Munich several weeks ago for what was formally called the Werhkunde Conference, I recounted an essay by the American journalist Walter Lippmann that expresses one of the central challenges of our era. Lippmann wrote of a remote island in the Atlantic during the months leading up to the First World War. It was an island whose residents were shocked to learn in the fall of 1914 that the world around them had slipped into war months before without their notice. These islanders, wrote Lippman, had held a view of the world that no longer corresponded to the world in which they were actually living. "There was a time," he wrote, "when each man was still adjusted to an environment that no longer existed."

A decade removed from the Cold War, I believe the challenge for the United States and our European allies and friends is somewhat similar to that of those islanders. We have yet to fully adjusted to the new world in which we live. We must see the world, not as it once was, but as it truly is, and to imagine it as it might yet become, and how we might shape it.

When we gathered last at this Forum, Kosovo was reeling from terrorizing Serbian assaults, forcing preparations for NATO air strikes. And as we all know, NATO’s demonstrated resolve has proven successful in averting a humanitarian disaster and created the opportunity for Kosovars and Serbs to settle their differences peacefully through international mediation. We must maintain the resolve of the Alliance if we are to achieve a peaceful settlement and avoid a large-scale renewal of that conflict.

On the very day I addressed this Forum last year, Iraq targeted coalition planes with their anti-aircraft radar, in what has since become a consistent pattern of military provocation. A pattern that ultimately prompted our strikes in December, which, with the help of our British friends and coalition partners in the region, diminished Iraq’s ability to deliver weapons of mass destruction and to threaten its neighbors.

Indeed, the past year has reinforced, in bold relief, a fundamental truth of our times -- that we live in an uncertain and often dangerous world. In this past year, nuclear explosions in India and Pakistan sent shockwaves of concern reverberating around the globe. Terrorists slaughtered hundreds and injured thousands, most of them African and many of them Muslim, near U.S. embassies in Africa and attempted more attacks, prompting our targeted action in self defense. And North Korea stunned the world by firing a long-range missile over Japan and into the Pacific. Indeed, we have moved from a Cold War to a Simmering Peace.

These threats to peace and stability, and to the lives of our citizens, make clear what the members of the WEU and NATO have known for fifty years -- that a strong transatlantic partnership and active engagement to counter the threats we face is indispensable to our collective security. Indeed, the cooperation and determination that created the western alliance and carried us through the last half century can guide us through the next. But while our fundamental security principles endure, we must adjust to the new world in which we live. We need a new alliance for the new century; one that is designed for the missions ahead.

As the famous Italian strategist, General Giulio Douhet said, "Victory smiles upon those who anticipate changes, not upon those who wait to adapt themselves after the changes occur." The Strategic Concept that NATO will unveil at the Washington Summit next month will both reaffirm enduring truths and recognize emerging realities: That NATO is first and foremost, a military alliance whose central mission remains the collective defense of its members. That NATO will always act on the basis of consensus. That NATO will always act in the spirit of the principles of the United Nations.

Our first over-arching challenge of building a new NATO is therefore to adjust and transform the Alliance to meet new challenges. Last year at this Forum, I hightlighted a lesson from Bosnia: That our forces must be prepared to endure the stresses and strains of operations where they will lack preexisting communications, logistics, headquarters, or other infrastructure. And I called upon us to take steps toward building forces that are fully compatible.

This year, I can report on an initiative that the United States and our Allies are developing to transform the defense capabilities, not just as individual nations, but of the Alliance as a whole. In order to transform its defense capabilities, NATO is preparing to embrace a "common operational vision" that includes four "core capabilities." We must be mobile enough to project our forces as rapidly as is necessary. We must effectively engage by delivering the right response, whether it be combat or humanitarian support, when and where it is needed.

We must increase our sustainability by supporting our forces with more tailored and efficient logistics systems. And we must enhance the survivability of our forces by protecting them from terrorist, chemical, biological and electronic attacks.

Individually, many allies are already working to counter the threat of chemical and biological weapons, poison arrows aimed at our Achilles’ heels. Collectively, we can do even more to disrupt the plans, to borrow from Eliot, of those who would "show us fear in a handful of dust." That is why the United States has proposed an initiative on weapons of mass destruction, with a central clearinghouse to increase sharing of information and improve programs to protect both military and civilian populations. These efforts would enhance, not eclipse, the work already underway across the alliance.

Preparing NATO forces for the future also means preparing for the possibility of terrorist attacks against NATO forces, facilities and peoples. Individually, many allies have taken steps to confront this scourge as well. Collectively, we must do more to address the threat that terrorism poses to the Alliance. Indeed, I believe the Washington Summit affords us the opportunity to lay the framework for dealing with this threat as an Alliance.

This transformation will require the combined efforts of all partners in the Alliance, North American and European, the oldest NATO members as well as the newest, and our friends in the WEU and the Partnership for Peace. Indeed, the nations of Europe have shown a growing and impressive willingness to play a more active role in European security. The OSCE-led verification mission in Kosovo and the French-led Extraction Force in neighboring Macedonia are welcome steps toward a more active role for Europeans in European security.

A stronger security profile for Europe benefits all members of the alliance. That is why the United States continues to support the WEU as a vehicle for strengthening the European pillar of NATO and why we support the Combined Joint Task Force concept and the development of the European Security and Defense Identity, the so called ESDI, within NATO that will make use of separable but non-separate alliance assets for possible European-led operations.

Of course, if our Alliance is to be prepared for tomorrow’s missions, we must invest more wisely today. That is why President Clinton’s budget proposal makes available $112 billion in additional defense resources over the next six years, our largest sustained increase in defense spending in 15 years. To ensure the readiness of our people, our budget includes the largest increase in military pay and benefits in a generation. To ensure the readiness of our weapons, our budget includes $53 billion for this year’s procurement needs, the second annual increase since we reversed a 13-year decline in 1998.

These new resources keep us on the path to achieving our procurement goal of $60 billion per year by 2001, growing even more in subsequent years. This infusion of funds will allow us to equip our forces with the next generation of ships, aircraft and weapons that they will need to carry out equally revolutionary operational concepts that will change the way we fight in the future.

Our budget not only reflects the world as it is, but as it might become. It continues funding to develop and deploy air and missile defenses designed to protect U.S. forces overseas, as well as our friends and allies. Our budget also contains substantial new funding for our National Missile Defense program, designed to protect the American homeland against the emerging strategic ballistic missile threat from rogue nations.

President Clinton will not make a deployment decision on our NMD program until next year. Nevertheless, the United States is actively engaging our Russian friends in discussions on the nature of the modifications that may be required to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty; modifications that will satisfy our mutual strategic concerns while providing protection to our people from a limited ballistic missile attack.

It may not be possible for all Alliance members to seek and secure dramatically increased defense budgets. Yet, we believe that if the Alliance is to exist in word and deed, in fighting capacity as well as political appeal, then, at a minimum, defense budgets cannot be reduced further. The difficulties and dangers of the world surely do not permit it.

The dangers of our world also demand that we embrace the second over-arching challenge in building a new alliance for the new century: Forging even stronger ties with our non-NATO European partners.

The Partnership for Peace is now an indispensable cornerstone of regional stability and security. However, PfP must not only assist nations in climbing the stairs to NATO’s open door. PfP must remain a worthy end, in and of itself. Enhancing the inherent worth of PfP membership is the driving force behind our efforts in several areas. We envision strengthening PfP training and education programs, by improving military education through a Consortium of Defense Academies, by enhancing training exercises through a computer Simulation Network and by sharing expertise through specialized Training Centers in partner nations.

At the same time, we are examining how multi-national formations, such as the 8-nation Nordic Brigade now in Bosnia, can work even more closely with NATO in the future. And I note Hans Haekkerup’s leadership in turning the idea for the brigade from theory to practice. We are also examining how we might "operationalize" PfP so that future NATO-led PfP operations such as SFOR [Stabilization Force] occur less on an ad-hoc basis and more in an institutionalized fashion.

Perhaps the most critical relationships NATO has are those with Russia and Ukraine. Every session of the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council represents our mutual commitment to security consultations and practical cooperation that promote peace and security across Eurasia. Every session of the NATO-Ukraine Commission reflects our belief that a democratic, prosperous and stable Ukraine is essential to a democratic, prosperous and stable Europe. Indeed, every nation benefits when Ukraine and Russia are full partners in European security.

Nowhere is the test of whether NATO can meet the missions of the future greater than in the Balkans. NATO’s recent decision to reduce troop levels in Bosnia by another ten percent is yet a further sign that our presence has indeed been a stabilizing influence. We are hopeful that the ongoing NATO review will conclude that the security situation in Bosnia is such that SFOR can be reduced even further. The international community must build on the progress already achieved and press ahead on full implementation of Dayton, especially with civilian implementation, which continues to lag behind.

As our alliance begins its second half century, we stand at a moment of challenge that is exceeded only by its potential. The threats we face have changed, but our strength remains unmatched; our solidarity unfrayed. Like the Biblical Joseph’s many-colored coat, the flags and fates of our nations are woven together, the hues of each combining to create a rich and enduring fabric. And from the same loom used to craft our victory in the Cold War, we can bring forth a new alliance adapted for a new century. In doing so, we can create a Europe that is truly healed, whole and free.


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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).