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NATO Has Always Been Ready for the Long Haul

NATO Has Always Been Ready for the Long Haul

Opening Statement by the Secretary General of NATO, Lord Robertson, NATO Foreign Ministers Meeting, Brussels, 6 December 2001. Source: NATO.

Ministers, Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Bienvenue à cette réunion du Conseil de l’Atlantique Nord au niveau des Ministres des Affaires Etrangères.

I want this morning to particularly welcome the new people around the table. At this Council meeting for the first time we have Per Stig Moeller, the new Foreign Minister of Denmark; we have Renato Ruggiero, the new Foreign Minister of Italy; Jan Petersen, the new Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, Jack Straw, who I have occasionally known in the past, the new Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, and sadly, our colleague Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, the new Foreign Minister of Poland cannot be with us today due to close family bereavement, but is represented by his Under Secretary.

We meet today in the wake of the first truly defining moment of the 21st century. On September 11th 2001, the entire world suffered a brutal attack. It was an attack on our citizens. On our values. And on the sense of safety and security that all people expect, and indeed deserve.

NATO has made a unique contribution to the international community’s response. By invoking Article 5, the Allies pledged total solidarity against the terrorists. Through the 46 nations of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, NATO mobilised the largest permanent coalition in the world. It then translated political support into action by making available ports, bases, airspace and other support for US and Allies’ deployment. It has shared the burden of defending the United States by deploying NATO’s AWACS aircraft for the first time over North American cities. In the Balkans, NATO forces have smashed Al-Qaida terrorist cells. And if the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan so warrants, we have plans ready to respond quickly to a UN request for logistic assistance.

Our task today and in the coming months is to build on this success by developing ways to combat terrorism more effectively, now and in the long term. There has to be zero tolerance of global terrorism. This task will be a prolonged and it will be a demanding commitment. But NATO has always been ready for the long haul. It is characteristic of a military alliance to think strategically. The threats have changed but our resilience and relevance have not.

We are taking the longer term view on other issues as well. Today we will make a major step forward in our relationship with Russia. Our aim is a qualitatively new level of cooperation. September 11 showed starkly that more unites us than divides us. Our meeting tomorrow with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is an opportunity to move from uneasy partnership to a deeper and more concrete relationship based on the logic of common interests.

We will also review our progress in building stability in the Balkans. NATO has played the key role in resolving crises in Southern Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia[1]. Operation Essential Harvest in FYROM was an extraordinary success. Task Force Fox has carried on this good work. And in Kosovo, the recent elections mark a very important step forward in the normalisation of life.

Our Balkan operations have continued to demonstrate the value of practical cooperation between NATO and the European Union. At our meetings this morning, and with EU Foreign Ministers later this evening, we will look at ways to ensure that our institutional relations mirror the practical cooperation on the ground. I am delighted that my co-toiler in the Balkan vineyard, Javier Solana, is here with us today. We most often appear as a double act in Skopje but it is nice to be a double act here in the North Atlantic Council as well.

So I emphasise that these are working meetings that will be taking place over the next two days. We are addressing real issues and discussing practical solutions. Our work here will help to ensure that NATO remains as relevant and important to Euro-Atlantic security as it has always been.

[1] Turkey recognises the Republic of Macedonia by its constitutional name.


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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).