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Better Prevent Crises As Responding to Them Once They Occur

Better Prevent Crises As Responding to Them Once They Occur

Policy Statement made by German Foreign Minister Fischer in the German Bundestag on 14 November 2002 on the NATO Summit to be held on 21/22 November in Prague. Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Berlin, November 14, 2002.

Twelve years after the end of the Cold War the world we once knew is now a very different place. The two blocs stuck in the mould of military confrontation are gone, the world we live in today is an altogether more complex one. While in Europe particularly we have made tremendous gains in terms of peace, stability and freedom, at the same time we constantly hear reports of new regional conflicts breaking out, popular unrest or terrorist attacks. As we were reminded at the latest by the horrific events of 11 September 2001, such problems directly threaten also ourselves. Terrorism especially clearly targets all of us who live in open societies. In an increasingly globalized world, however, regional conflicts and social problems, too, pose an ever growing danger. Our borders offer only very inadequate protection against asymmetrical threats of this nature.

Everyone should be able to live in freedom and security: that is our goal. Resolute military action to combat terrorism is necessary. But if we do not want to risk failure, that alone will not suffice. We also need to effectively address the political and social conflicts that breed violence and terror. It is just as important to prevent crises as to respond to them once they occur. To enable us do that, a global cooperative security system is more essential than ever. Only if nations work together is such comprehensive security possible. Only a multilateral approach will enable us to vigorously tackle at all relevant levels the dangers confronting us in today's world. Instead of focusing on a purely military response to conflicts, we must define security in broad terms. For both Europe and America that is a new task of crucial political significance not only for their own continents but also well beyond.

It is against this background that the 19 members of NATO will be meeting next Thursday in Prague. For the transatlantic Alliance itself as well as its role in a system of global cooperative security, the Summit in the Czech capital will mark the beginning of a new era. It will be a demonstration of NATO's ability to adapt to a changing world. The Alliance will take yet a further step there towards resolving the major issues relating to Europe's security.

The Summit will once again remind us that NATO is far more than just an alliance for the mutual defence of its members. It is a community founded on values cherished on both sides of the Atlantic, a community that has not only made a vital contribution to world security and stability but also strengthened democracy and the rule of law in its member countries.

The discussions in Prague will focus on three core tasks facing the Alliance:

  • opening up NATO to new members,
  • shaping NATO's relations with its partners, and
  • adapting NATO to the new challenges ahead.

All three issues are crucial to the future of the Alliance and hence a key foreign-policy concern for Germany.

For the second time since the end of the Cold War NATO is about to admit new members. A consensus among present NATO members to invite seven new countries to join the Alliance appears increasingly likely. Some thirteen years after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, a number of important countries in Southern and Eastern Europe and around the Baltic would then be part of NATO.

The forthcoming enlargement is a notable achievement both for the Alliance and for the applicant countries themselves. It will make Europe more stable. It will strengthen transatlantic relations. And it will accelerate necessary reforms within member countries.

The next round of enlargement is also in Germany's interest. That is why the Bundestag in April voted by an overwhelming cross-benches majority in favour of extending this invitation.

The invitation will have been preceded by a thorough assessment to determine whether candidates are both willing and able to join the Alliance. That has entailed years of intensive preparation. We in Germany have actively contributed to this process: our military and civilian advisers, equipment and training assistance have all provided valuable and much appreciated support. In the opinion of a good many experts, several of the current applicants are indeed better prepared than the three applicants admitted in the first round of enlargement in 1997.

Over the past three years the applicants have all carried out reforms and made considerable progress. Their efforts have not been confined merely to restructuring their armed forces. They have also made headway in fields such as resolving internal and external conflicts, ensuring greater respect for human rights and bringing the armed forces under democratic control.

These tasks have not all been fully completed as yet. Clearly also those applicants invited to join the Alliance in Prague must carry on their efforts in this regard. NATO is not a static organization: its members all need to continually adapt to new challenges as they arise. The applicant countries will commit themselves in a letter addressed to the NATO Secretary General to continue - also once the invitation has been issued - their efforts to remedy any remaining deficiencies.

However, it will not be possible in Prague to invite all those to join NATO that wish to do so. It is important therefore that we stay in intensive contact with those countries that will not be joining this time around. In the summit declaration we will explicitly encourage them to persevere in their efforts. Also in future NATO has to be able to admit new members, its doors must be kept open. That is a point we Germans consider crucial. On that all present NATO members also fully agree.

For as the past ten years have shown, the prospect of NATO membership has helped to defuse and prevent conflicts. It has helped to reinforce and accelerate the reforms under way in the applicant countries. It has helped bring greater stability to individual countries and regions. Enlarging the Alliance also means enlarging and consolidating the transatlantic community of shared values. That is why enlarging the Alliance - and by the same token enlarging the European Union - is clearly in Germany's own interest.

Obviously the issue of NATO's relations with its partners outside the Alliance is directly linked to the issue of enlargement. As an Alliance, we not only need to open up to new members but also to develop our cooperation with those countries that are NATO neighbours.

First of all we need to develop our cooperation with Russia. Under the auspices of the NATO-Russia Council NATO foreign ministers plan to meet their Russian colleague in Prague to define the objectives of their future collaboration and take stock of what has been achieved to date. By and large the results have been satisfactory. Since the Summit in Rome on 28 May our cooperation with Russia has shown a marked improvement. On many issues we and our Russian partners now see eye to eye. Notably as far as the situation in the Western Balkans is concerned, there is a growing consensus. We have now elaborated a workable concept for joint peacekeeping operations on the ground.

These steps towards the closer cooperation we have always wanted to see are a significant achievement for both sides. They ought to enable us also to discuss how we can work together to find solutions to problems in the security field. For us the aim here is to reach a common understanding of what is at issue. In the case of the conflict in Chechnya, for example, we continue to believe the only way forward is a political solution based on respect for the principle of territorial integrity, respect for human rights and a commitment to the fight against terrorism.

The close relations that now exist between NATO and Russia are crucial to the stability and security of the whole euro-atlantic area. It is due to the intensification of these ties, in fact, that NATO enlargement no longer constitutes a serious problem for Russia. Just a few years ago that was not by any means the case.

Another important NATO neighbour and partner is Ukraine. In Prague NATO foreign ministers also plan to meet their Kiev opposite number to discuss how Ukraine can be more closely aligned with euro-atlantic structures. We intend to adopt an action plan that will clearly define the objectives of our cooperation. The main emphasis will be on intensifying the political dialogue and supporting Ukraine's efforts to reform its defence capabilities.

That will mean addressing also a number of critical issues, however, in relations between NATO and the Kiev Government. The allegations concerning Ukrainian arms exports to crisis zones and the illegal transfer of technology to Iraq have currently cast a pall over our cooperation. We demand of our partners that they respect international law, that they respect the resolutions of the United Nations: let no one be in any doubt about that.

Another issue we will be considering in Prague is how to give more concrete substance to NATO's relations with other partners in neighbouring regions. Over the past few months we have collaborated intensively particularly with our partners in Central Asia. Our cooperation with them during the crisis in Afghanistan brought home to us what an important role they can play as a bridge to Asia. The same goes for our European partners, with whom we have excellent cooperation in SFOR or KFOR, for example.

Finally, we also want to enhance the dialogue with the countries of the Mediterranean, on which proposals are due to be presented in Prague. Such a dialogue we believe is very important, for it can help promote regional stability and foster mutual understanding. However, how far those concerned are prepared to engage in such a dialogue very much depends on developments in the Middle East conflict.

There is a third major complex NATO members want to address in Prague. To meet the challenges of today's world we are going to have to adapt. With the Cold War over, traditional territorial defence is no longer the priority it used to be. Increasingly we need to ask what NATO is doing to respond to the new threats. How can we contribute, in ways that have a long-term impact, to combating these threats, to containing and preventing crises and conflicts?

Since 11 September 2001, since Djerba and Bali these questions have acquired a troubling urgency. The nightmare of a massive terrorist attack is now for all of us a grim reality. To these new challenges the Alliance must clearly respond. The right priorities therefore need to be set in Prague to allow NATO to plan and operate on the basis of a comprehensive definition of security.

One issue Prague will have to deal with is how to enhance the Alliance's military capabilities. New dangers call for appropriate responses on the part of NATO members. The Summit is expected to take a decision on the initiative known as the Prague Capabilities Commitment. This sets out clear priorities for developing NATO members' military capabilities: these include such areas as defence against attacks by weapons of mass destruction, secure and state-of-the-art command technology, strategic air transport and reconnaissance systems.

Here we believe the United States proposal for a NATO Response Force has much to offer. This kind of multinational approach can not only help tackle the security challenges we face today but also serve to strengthen NATO's integrated structures. We therefore endorse the suggestion that Prague should authorize work to go ahead on elaborating the conceptual basis for this Force.

In our view, however, three requirements will have to be met:

  • Any decision to deploy this Force must be taken by the North Atlantic Council.
  • By German law our country can only participate with the prior approval of the Bundestag.
  • The project must be compatible with the development of European crisis response capabilities under the auspices of the European Security and Defence Policy. Duplication should be avoided.

But the focus in Prague will not be on military capabilities alone. When discussing the international situation, the assembled heads of state and government will also be exploring how to contain conflicts more effectively and prevent potential crises breaking out. In many cases the key to success is the right mix of political and military instruments. As we have seen with NATO's operation in Macedonia, the preventive deployment of military forces early on, closely linked with political and diplomatic initiatives, can help resolve conflicts by peaceful means before violence starts to escalate. We believe such strategies need to be further developed. Particularly in the context of an effective and comprehensive fight against terrorism, we are convinced such strategies have an absolutely crucial part to play.

The forthcoming enlargement, the efforts to step up the dialogue with our partners, adapt our capabilities and strategies to the situation we face today and intensify concerted multilateral action - all these amount to a clear demonstration not only of NATO's dynamism and flexibility but also of the truth of its ambitious claim to be a community founded on shared values, values that are cherished on both sides of the Atlantic.

In the intricate network of relations in the North Atlantic area NATO constitutes the most vital link. It is a symbol of the historic ties between Europe and America and their mutual engagement. It is one of the key pillars in the system of global cooperative security which the world needs today more than ever before. The Federal Government therefore intends to give sustained support to the projects launched at the Prague Summit and take an active part in bringing them to fruition.

Thank you very much.


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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).