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Terrorism: The Alliance Adapts Its Defence Capabilities

Terrorism: The Alliance Adapts Its Defence Capabilities

Statement on Combating Terrorism Adapting the Alliance's Defence Capabilities, Issued at the Meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Defence Ministers Session held in Brussels on 18 December 2001 Source: Press Communique PR/CP(2001)173.

1. The atrocities committed against the United States on 11 September were an attack on all Allies. The invocation for the first time of Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, within a day of those tragic events, was a powerful testimony to this fact and demonstrated that NATO’s overall approach to security can include the possibility of collective action in response to a terrorist attack from abroad on an Ally. It also testified to our recognition that what had been attacked, in addition to thousands of innocent people, were the values on which our societies are based. These are values we will defend. Individually and collectively, we must deal with a changed security environment.

2. The Alliance must adapt its capabilities to these changes in the conditions of security and stability. We fully endorse the recent statement on terrorism by Alliance Foreign Ministers. As Defence Ministers, we are especially concerned to ensure that the Alliance's military concepts evolve in keeping with our clearer appreciation of the menace posed by terrorism and that its defence capabilities are adequate for the demands they will face, including military responses to terrorism. Such action must of course make use of a wide range of national and international means, of which military ones are only a part. As complements to civilian instruments, however, defence and military tools may be essential for a number of purposes including gathering intelligence; acting against terrorists and those who harbour them; protecting populations, infrastructure, and forces against their attacks; and dealing with the consequences of attacks that might nevertheless occur.

3. The Alliance is already in a position to contribute significantly to the struggle against terrorism due to the ongoing transformation of its forces, military structures, and defence planning procedures that has been under way since the end of the Cold War. Indeed, following 11 September, both individually and collectively, the Allies are already making such a contribution. In conjunction with the invocation of Article 5, we have opened our airspace to aircraft involved in the coalition operations, deployed Airborne Warning and Control Aircraft to help patrol American airspace, sent a naval force to the eastern Mediterranean, taken steps to strengthen the protection of sensitive facilities, and increased exchanges of information and intelligence. We are examining ways of improving the Alliance's air defence posture.

4. A more general re-assessment of the Alliance's defence posture and plans in the light of the events of 11 September has already begun. A new assessment of the threat posed by terrorism is being prepared; proposals for improving the Alliance's preparedness against terrorism involving chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons have been advanced; and the Allies concerned are examining the implications of terrorism for national defence plans in the context of NATO's force planning system. We are vigorously pursuing our efforts to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery means and intensifying our cooperation in the field of civil emergency planning.

5. In addition, NATO's relationships with its Partners - with Russia, Ukraine, and the other members of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council - constitute a network of countries linked by habits of cooperation and united in their condemnation of terrorism. These relationships have already shown their operational importance in the Balkans and are also valuable in the struggle against terrorism. The value of our cooperation with our Partners has already been shown in the consultations that are taking place on the ongoing crisis and the fact that a number of them are contributing to the coalition operations. We wish to deepen our relationships with our Central Asian and Caucasian Partners, as well as with our partners in the Mediterranean Dialogue, who have also unreservedly condemned the attacks on the United States.

6. The struggle against terrorism will involve a wide range of international organisations. We support the efforts of the United Nations with its central role in this field, and those of the European Union, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the G-8, and international financial institutions.

7. There is much yet to do, however, on both a conceptual and a practical level. This work should include:

  • further consideration, as noted earlier, of the way in which the Alliance can contribute in the defence field to the struggle against terrorism;
  • preparation by the NATO Military Authorities, on the basis of guidance to be provided by the Council in Permanent Session, of a military concept for defence against terrorism, following the development of the new threat assessment, for approval by the Council in Permanent Session;
  • a review of the effectiveness of the Alliance's defence and military policies, structures and capabilities for the full range of its missions against the background of the threat posed by terrorism;
  • further efforts by the Senior Defence Group on Proliferation, in consultation with other relevant NATO bodies, to improve the Alliance's capability to cope with the possible use by terrorists of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials;
  • further efforts by nations and by the relevant Alliance bodies to identify possible measures in all relevant DCI capability areas, in both the short and long term, or additional efforts that would enhance the Alliance's defensive posture against terrorist attacks;
  • enhanced sharing of information among the Allies on threat warnings and intelligence assessments, concepts, structures, equipment, training, and exercising of military forces designed to combat terrorist threats, and on other measures that could improve the Alliance's defence posture against such threats.

8. Efforts to improve NATO's ability to respond to terrorism must be an integral, albeit urgent, part of the more general ongoing work to improve Alliance military capabilities. There has been some progress in this wider regard since our last meeting, but a great deal more needs to be done. We are especially concerned about persistent long-standing deficiencies in areas such as survivability; deployability; combat identification; and intelligence, surveillance, and target acquisition. The full implementation of DCI is essential if the Alliance is to be able to carry out its missions, taking into account the threat posed by terrorism.

9. Against the background of this statement, we direct the Council in Permanent Session to keep these matters under regular review and report to us at our next meeting on progress made with respect to the tasks listed in paragraph 7 and more generally on the Alliance's ability, from a defence and military point of view, to accomplish the full range of its tasks in the changed security environment, especially in light of the threat posed by terrorism. The Council should also make recommendations for any necessary further work. In addition, the Summit Meeting next year in Prague of the Heads of State and Government will be a particularly important opportunity to assess the progress made in developing the capabilities that the struggle against terrorism and the other challenges facing the Alliance demand, and to give further direction as necessary.


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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).