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NATO and the Future of Global Security

NATO and the Future of Global Security

Source: Speech by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson, at the Potsdam Center. Potsdam, March 4, 2002.

Minister Scharping, Minister Schönbohm, Professor Loschelder,

Professor Mathiopoulos, Professor Görtemaker,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me begin by thanking Professor Mathiopolous and Professor Görtemaker for the invitation to speak today at the opening of the new "Potsdam Center for Transatlantic Security and Military Affairs". I am sure the Center has a bright and busy future ahead of it!

For the time being, however, The Centre is fishing in crowded waters. Everyone seems to have a view of the future of NATO and the transatlantic relationship more generally.

I welcome this debate. It will make the road to NATO’s November summit at Prague more stimulating. And, I hope, help produce a better outcome. But the debate must be well informed, not misinformed. So far, that has not always been the case, on either side of the Atlantic.

I will therefore try to summarise what I believe to be the starting point for this debate, accentuating the positive while being realistic about the negatives.

First, NATO has entered the 21st century in robust good health. The reason is simple. Immediate crises often become enduring strategic challenges and to handle long-term challenges, one needs long-term partners.

The Balkans is a perfect example. Bosnia was a shock to the international system, and a strain on NATO's unity. In the early 1990s Europe and the United States could not agree on how to tackle this terrible crisis -- and as a result, many so-called experts were writing NATO's epitaph.

But stabilizing the Balkans is a long-term strategic goal, in the interest of all NATO Allies. It requires coordinated political action, and capable, multinational forces. And once both sides of the Atlantic figured out how to work together to make it happen, we achieved success. In fact, far from dividing us, our operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, and most recently in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia brought us even closer together, and reaffirmed NATO's enduring value.

In this respect, I would like to pay particular tribute to the role of Germany’s armed forces in leading the complex operation that has helped to bring peace to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in the past six months.

The same pattern of success has been repeated time and time again. From helping the new democracies manage their transition; to locking in stability through enlargement; to building a relationship with Russia that works; to tackling arms control; to controlling proliferation. Throughout NATO's history, and in particular the past decade, the Atlantic Alliance has adapted to meet, and defeat, new challenges to our security.

Underpinning that success is the fundamental truth that Europe and North America share a common culture, shared values, and common interests. They know how to work together, and they trust each other when they do.

For over five decades, Europe and North America have been a strategic community, meeting common strategic goals together. Such a community does not collapse each and every time it is tested by an unexpected event. We have survived differences over Suez, Vietnam, missile deployments and unequitable burdensharing. We have dealt successfully with Cold War crises, German unification, the Gulf War and a decade of Balkans instability.

Now, because of September 11th, some pundits are saying that shifting, ad-hoc coalitions are the way to assure our future from now on. And they say that permanent coalitions such as NATO have no role in meeting the new challenges of global security, including terrorism.

In fact, just the opposite is true. The global security challenges of today cannot be fought effectively by one country alone -- no matter how powerful. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, regional conflicts, organised crime and environmental disasters are long-term international problems, and they require long-term multinational solutions.

Terrorism is no exception. Of course, the terrorist attacks were a human disaster and a terrible shock. But they were more than that. They were also a wake up call.

September 11th made two things very clear. First, we now all understand that fighting terrorism can no longer be considered solely a matter of law enforcement. It is now also a matter of national security -- and international security.

Second, we learned that fighting terrorism has become a long -term strategic challenge. International terrorist networks pose a serious threat to our peace and security, and to the smooth functioning of the international system.

To fight such long-term strategic challenges, we need long-term strategic alliances. Far from arguing for the disbandment of permanent coalitions, the fight against terrorism demonstrates once again the enduring value of the North Atlantic Alliance. Because NATO is a unique forum for coordinating political action, and an invaluable framework for coordinated military operations.

The invocation of Article V by NATO's Allies was a clear example of NATO's political role. It illustrated the total political solidarity within the Alliance in times of crisis -- the legacy of decades of trust and cooperation within the Atlantic community.

NATO's political role went much further than the Alliance itself. NATO's policies of outreach and partnership helped lay the groundwork for the broader international coalition. Through Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, key countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus have grown to know and trust the West. This helped to create political support for the US-led operations in Afghanistan.

But NATO has played a direct military role as well. From invaluable logistical support, to NATO AWACS patrols over US airspace to counter-terrorist operations against Al Qaida cells in the Balkans. These were the kinds of important, and immediate military support that only long-term Allies and close friends can provide.

And NATO's military value stretches beyond NATO territory, to Afghanistan itself. Forces from four NATO Allies are participating on the ground in the US-led operations in Afghanistan. And forces from NATO members are also at the core of the UN Force now helping to stabilize that country. Here too, German troops are playing a major role.

The central role of NATO countries is no coincidence. Fighting terrorism involves police force and intelligence operatives, but can also involve military operations.

Military personnel from many countries must be able to work together at a moment's notice. Forces must have the capability to go to a crisis area, to deploy quickly, and to take on the toughest operations. Troops must be able to operate against enemies who might have a range of modern weapons, including weapons of mass destruction, and who would have no qualms about using them. And all the necessary logistics and arrangements must be in place to allow many countries to work together at a moment's notice.

In sum, fighting terrorism means having the best forces, trained and equipped to take on this challenge together. Forces that are light, deployable and sustainable over time and distance. And forces with the habits and capacities to work together quickly, when a crisis hits.

The past five months have demonstrated that there is only place to find such capabilities -- in NATO. The procedures, practices and capacities necessary to work together outside of NATO operations are forged inside the Alliance -- and that kind of interoperability can't be created on an ad-hoc basis. It can only be built over time, through joint planning, joint training, and common standards for procurement, communications and so on. Which means long-term engagement with long-term partners.

So NATO has a key role to play in meeting the new threats to global security. Because these are strategic threats. And NATO is a unique strategic actor, as a political organizer for some of the world's leading democracies; and as an unique platform for coordinated military action, both within NATO operations and in coalitions of the willing elsewhere.

But to continue to fulfil this role, and to remain relevant to Euro-Atlantic and global security, NATO must continue its process of change. Prague will therefore be a Summit of enlargement, adaptation and transformation.

The agenda includes taking in another group of one or more new members, developing a qualitatively higher level of cooperation with Russia and internal reform. All major issues.

But today I wold like to focus on two aspects of particular relevance to the debate on transatlantic security.

First, the Alliance must become even more effective at helping to tackle terrorism. Like all of our governments, like the international community as a whole, NATO did not see this threat coming clearly enough. But we are taking steps now to ensure that we are better prepared from now on.

Intelligence sharing among Allies is being increased further. We are using our Centre for Weapons of Mass Destruction to focus more systematically on the protection of our forces and populations against nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, on the dangers of proliferation, and on ballistic missile defence. And we are reviewing our defence capabilities to tailor them more specifically to the requirements of combating terrorism.

That brings me to a second major challenge before the Alliance: to improve the overall defence capabilities of the European members of NATO.

I am committed to modernising Europe's armed forces for two equally important reasons. First, because I am a committed Atlanticist. And as an Atlanticist, my judgement is that enabling NATO's European members to take a greater share of the burden of maintaining our common transatlantic security is the best possible way to build on the emotional and practical strengthening of transatlantic bonds resulting from September 11.

Second, I am also a committed European. For the past two years, I have worked in NATO to build the sound, practical relationship between the Alliance and the EU on which a successful ESDI/ESDP depends.

So I want Europe to share the military burden because it is in our interests for Europe to play a stronger role in the transatlantic partnership, and take on more defence and security responsibilities. My aim is for the European countries, in NATO and the EU, to have a military capacity that better reflects their political and economic might.

Today's picture is not as bleak as some paint it. For example, on the ground in the Balkans, the Europeans are doing the lion's share. More than 85% of peacekeeping troops are European, and the EU contributes the bulk of reconstruction and development costs.

But we are hard pressed to maintain those 50,000 European troops in the Balkans. And hardly any European country can deploy useable and effective forces in significant numbers outside their borders, and sustain them for months or even years as we all need to do today. For all Europe's rhetoric, and an annual investment of over $ 140 billion by NATO's European members to keep over 2 million men and women in uniform, we still need US help to move, command and provision a major operation.

As an Atlanticist and as a European, I am convinced that all European countries must show a new willingness to develop effective crisis management capabilities.

The choice for the Europeans is modernisation or marginalisation. I am therefore sounding once again my clarion call of "capabilities, capabilities, capabilities". And returning to the change on unpalatable themes such as conscription.

The success of this modernisation effort is simply vital. Otherwise, the gap between American forces on the one hand and European -- and Canadian -- forces on the other will be unbridgeable. For Washington, the choice could become: act alone or not at all. And that is no choice at all. For Americans and Europeans alike.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The US, long accused of being isolationist, has actually been committed to Europe for many decades -- because Washington knows that in Europe, it has trusted friends and enduring Allies. Europe, long accused of being anti-American, has actually been a staunch partner to North America: because in the US and Canada, Europe knows it has not fair-weather friends, but brothers in arms.

The transatlantic partnership is not a marriage in convenience. It is a strategic Alliance that has endured because it does its job: to marshal and organize the political and military resources of its members towards common goals, and to defeat common threats. In an uncertain new age -- facing new and deadly threats to global security-- that Alliance is more valuable than ever.

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).