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Our Whole Perception of the Dangers Has Changed

Our Whole Perception of the Dangers Has Changed

Meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Defence Ministers Session. December 18, 2001: Opening Statement by the Secretary General of NATO, Lord Robertson.

Good morning. Let me especially welcome those colleagues who are with us for the first time -- Minister Svend Jensby of Denmark, Minister Yannos Papantoniou of Greece, Minister Kristin Devold of Norway, and Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski of Poland. We are pleased to have you with us and look forward to working with you. Welcome too to our new Dean of the North Atlantic Council in Defence Ministers session, Minister Alain Richard, who now becomes the longest serving Defence Minister in the Alliance. Before we turn to our agenda, I would like to say a word about what I hope we can accomplish today and tomorrow. The outrages of 11 September have changed our whole perception of the dangers of the world in which we live. What was previously an abstract possibility became immediately an appalling reality. As a result, our security environment must now be seen in a fundamentally different and considerably darker light. But the attacks and their aftermath also altered and expanded our conception of the world's possibilities. Perhaps the most striking instance of this lies in our relationship with Russia. Acting together, NATO and Russia have an opportunity now to change deeply embedded historical patterns. This is a chance that must be seized. We also face new opportunities for enhanced cooperation with our other Partners and organisations which must be acted upon as well. NATO responded quickly and effectively to the events of 11 September:

  • by invoking Article 5 of the Washington Treaty the very next day;
  • by mobilising the largest permanent coalition in the world through the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and its 46 member countries;
  • by making available ports, bases, airspace and other support for US and Allied deployments; and,
  • by deploying AWACS aircraft for the first time over American cities to share the burden of defending the United States and we deployed our Standing Naval Forces in the Mediterranean also as a signal of our determination.

Since then, in the Balkans, NATO forces have smashed terrorist cells, including those of Al-Qaida. Just this past weekend, KFOR and SFOR, working closely with civilian authorities, were involved in search operations of organisations suspected of involvement in terrorist activities.

But we have only just begun what must be a further adaptation of the Alliance to meet the new security challenges that we face. We must adapt our concepts, our relationships, and especially our defence capabilities. We are here today to begin that work. As we proceed, it will be important not to allow customary reflexes to reassert themselves. 11 September brought a terrible clarity to what is required to ensure the safety of our populations. And we must draw the necessary conclusions, even if that means additional resources for defence and security and new balances inside our defence programmes. These are all matters of direct concern to Defence Ministers. Therefore, I know that our deliberations this morning, and in our later discussions with our Partners, will give impetus and direction to what is bound to be a prolonged and demanding commitment to adapt our Alliance to the fight against terrorism.


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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).