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NATO Chapter Three

NATO Chapter Three

Speech by Lord Robertson, NATO Secretary General's Manfred Wörner Lecture at the German Atlantic Treaty Association, Königswinter, 24 June 2003. Source: NATO.

Mrs. Wörner, Mr. Polenz,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am grateful to the German Atlantic Association for its invitation and I am happy to deliver this year's Manfred Wörner commemoration lecture.

Like no Secretary General before him, Manfred Wörner came to epitomise the idea of change and transformation. So my speech today will be exactly about that: change and transformation. Because in my view, NATO is currently undergoing the most profound adaptation in its 54-year history. It is entering the Third Chapter of its evolution.

  • Chapter One was the Cold War:

Four decades of a narrow, static, territorial understanding of security.

- Chapter Two was the post-Cold War period:

A period in which NATO became an agent of positive political change, by looking beyond its own Treaty area and into the wider Europe. This was the Chapter that Manfred Wörner helped to open, through his relentless efforts to build bridges across the continent, to open NATO's doors to new members, and to bring the Alliance to bear on the Balkan crisis.

  • NATO is now entering Chapter Three:

It is rapidly transforming into an Alliance that is fully geared to the new security environment after September 11.

To some here in the room this may sound a trifle optimistic. Did we not face a terrible row over Iraq not so long ago? How can I speak confidently of an Alliance taking on new demanding tasks far away from home, when last February we could not even agree on when to start planning for the defence of Turkey?

I accept that the weeks of February were difficult. NATO took a serious hit. But as I argued back then, the damage we took was above, not below, the waterline. It was always clear to me that we would be able to repair the damage.

And we did. Within a few weeks, NATO was back on course.

Why? Because in February, we all learned an important lesson: that NATO is too valuable to be endangered because of the likes of Saddam Hussein. And that despite the doomsayers, much more unites NATO’s members than occasionally divides them.

This lesson has been learned -- painfully, but therefore all the more deeply. It has given us new self-confidence in moving ahead with NATO's transformation.

A key element of that transformation has been to move beyond Europe. The first step took place on September 12, 2001. As a result of the attacks on New York and Washington, we invoked Article 5. By this, we made NATO part of the struggle against terrorism. This is a global struggle.Then came the Prague Summit last November. More than a year after "9/11", we had the chance to show that NATO had learned the lessons of the new security environment.

Prague demonstrated that we had done our job. Because the Summit delivered across the entire spectrum of NATO's agenda:

-- We invited seven countries to enter into accession talks. Next year, when they will become full members, Europe will be consolidated as a common security space from the Atlantic to the Black Sea, and from the Baltic to the Balkans. In short, Europe will no longer be a place where wars start.

-- We agreed a Military Concept for the defence against terrorism, which states that NATO's military must be able to "deter, disrupt and defend" against terrorism wherever required. Again, no geographic limitations. NATO goes where the threat is.

-- We decided to enhance the protection against the effects of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Our military authorities will be better able to support civilian authorities if such attacks were ever to take place on home soil. And NATO will develop collective capacities, including mobile detection teams, mobile expert response teams, and vaccine stockpiles.

-- We agreed to set up a NATO Response Force. This NRF will give the Alliance a high-readiness capability. It will help us to ensure that military transformation is a transatlantic exercise. And it will ensure that military responses across the crisis spectrum can engage all Allies.

-- At Prague, we also committed to enhance and modernise our overall military capabilities. For NATO itself, that meant a new streamlined and flexible command structure. For NATO’s members, it meant hard and fast commitments by Heads of State and Government to make specific improvements, within clear time-frames, to their national forces.

These improvements cover the key capabilities that have shown their worth in the very different theatres of the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq: long-range lift; protection against weapons of mass destruction; modern command and control; and precision-guided munitions. I am delighted to say that nations are already delivering on these Prague Capabilities Commitments.

I welcome for example the German initiative on strategic airlift, which Minister Struck is carrying forward with great vigour, so that 12 nations were able to sign a letter of intent at this month’s NATO Defence Ministers’ meeting.

In short, the Prague Summit last November demonstrated an emerging new transatlantic security consensus. The Iraq crisis suspended this new consensus for a while. But it did not eclipse it. The transatlantic consensus is still there. It is growing. And it allows NATO to enter this Third Chapter of its evolution with confidence.

  • What are the major features of Chapter Three?

There is, first and foremost, a functional understanding of security, as opposed to the geographical understanding prevalent during the earlier incarnations of NATO.

Geography is no protection from the spillover effect of 21st century challenges. Afghanistan under the Taliban exported instability to its neighbours, drugs to Europe, and terrorism and refugees throughout the world. To argue that this country is too far away to be of concern to us would be a tremendous mistake.

The scale of threats has also increased. Today, terrorism is more international, more apocalyptic in its vision, and far more lethal than before. Terrorists have no territory that can be seized, or army that can be defeated on the field of battle. That is why it is all the more important that they know that there will be no safe havens for them -- that there will be no sanctuaries.

The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, too, is a global problem. Despite the best efforts of our diplomats and counter-proliferation experts, the spread of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons is a defining security challenge of our new century.

As the technology of weapons of mass destruction gets ever cheaper and easier to acquire, we face the prospect of more fingers on more triggers, some belonging to people who do not respond to traditional deterrents.

This is a far cry from the threat that brought NATO into existence: defending the borders of Western Europe against the tank armies of the Warsaw Pact. But it is a guaranteed supply chain of instability, a security environment in which threats can strike at any time, without warning, from anywhere.

We must be able to respond effectively, on today’s terms not yesterday’s.

f terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction are global threats, how can we fight them if we stick to self-imposed geographical restrictions? If NATO is the best military planning framework in the world, can we afford not to use it in Afghanistan and Iraq, or wherever else our fundamental security interests are at stake?

That is why NATO's recent decision to take the lead of the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul is so important. With this decision, NATO has finally shed its "eurocentric" focus.

Yet we have done so not for theological reasons but because it makes practical common sense. A NATO lead in ISAF means that we no longer have to search for a lead nation every six months. This will give the Afghans and their neighbours the sense that we are there for the long haul. And it gives the remnants of the Taliban and of Al Qaida the sense that their game is definitively over.

Shortly after the ISAF decision, NATO took yet another pragmatic step into the 21st century. It agreed to provide planning and other support for Poland as it prepared to take on command of one of the divisions which will help bring stability to post conflict Iraq.

For me, it was striking that this once unthinkable decision now appears quite natural. And that NATO Ministers can debate seriously the possibility of a more direct Alliance role in Iraq, or even the Middle East, without storms of theological protest.

Of course, these missions are dangerous, and no one harbours any illusions about the time and commitment it will take to make them succeed.

Three weeks ago in Kabul, four German peacekeepers were killed and many more injured in a suicide attack. I express my sincere condolences to the victims and their families. We will honour their exceptional commitment to the cause of peace and freedom -- in the only way such commitment can and should be honoured: by continuing to do our job, until that job is done.

A willingness to take on new missions beyond Europe will be a key feature of the new NATO. But mere willingness will not get us far if we lack the capabilities to back up our policies. That is why military capabilities must be part and parcel of our Chapter Three NATO.

There is much good news. The first elements of the NATO Response Force will be up and running by October. Two weeks ago, at the Defence Ministers meeting in Brussels, we agreed on the radical overhaul of our military command arrangements. The new structure has no more Cold War in it. It is leaner and meaner, smaller and more flexible, with a new command dedicated explicitly to transformation. And we were able to reach agreement in just 9 months a record time.

Does this mean that I am easing off on my call for capabilities, capabilities, capabilities? Of course not. There is still much to be done. All of the commitments made at Prague need to be implemented vigorously.

As Secretary General of NATO, I cannot force nations to spend more money on defence. But I have a few tricks up my sleeve. Recently, I decided to do what a teacher does to motivate his class: to give them a score card. In other words, I graded the progress made by nations in meeting the goals they agreed to at Prague.

I am happy to say that work on precision guided munitions got 10 out of 10, and the consortium on strategic airlift, led by Germany, got 8 out of 10. That is pretty good. But on vital NATO ground surveillance and on equally essential combat support I only gave 3s.

This is still too uneven a picture. And that is bad for transatlantic unity. How can Europeans complain about US unilateralism when they cannot bring serious capabilities to the table?

NATO enters the Third Chapter in its evolution, capabilities will therefore be -- more than ever before -- the ultimate litmus test of this Alliance.

A third characteristic of the new NATO will be its strategic partnership with the European Union. After years of hard work we have finally set the stage for NATO to support EU-led operations by agreeing on what is called the "Berlin plus" arrangements. This will allow the EU gradually to do more to share our common security lead, including in the Balkans, and to become an effective security actor. This is in everyone's interest. It allows for more equitable burden-sharing and, therefore, a better balanced and more sustainable transatlantic relationship.

Last Saturday, I took part in the EU’s Balkan Summit at Thessaloniki. This was an important demonstration of how far NATO and the EU have come together in producing practical improvements in security and stability.

We must now build on this success and on the Berlin plus framework. That means using the linkages so painstakingly agreed to cooperate across the whole spectrum of shared interests, including terrorism, capabilities and consequence management, not just on Balkan crisis management.

It means putting real flesh on the bones of the Strategic Partnership enshrined in December 2000 at Nice, not reverting to the theology of so-called "autonomy". It means no unnecessary duplication of resources, efforts or headquarters. And yes, for those of you who know Brussels, that does mean that I am querying the need for a second white elephant in Tervuren.

NATO’s Strategic Partnership with the EU shows that the relationship between Europe and North America is changing. But these changes will not mean we are drifting apart. Far from it. We have a shared vision of the threats that we face in the 21st century, a determination to work together not only within Europe, but beyond it and a shared determination to build modern, effective military capabilities.

These are the ingredients of a new, reborn transatlantic cooperation. Of course, like any birth, it is marked by some struggle, some pain, and a little mess but it will be well worth it in the end.`

The fourth feature of NATO Chapter Three will be closer relations with our neighbours and Partner countries. In the Balkans as well as in Afghanistan, soldiers of many Partner countries are working side-by-side with NATO troops. This demonstrates the enormous strategic value that these Partnerships have acquired.

NATO-Russia relations also made a quantum leap last year, after we set up the new NATO-Russia Council. This is one of NATO's greatest success stories, but one that still too few people know about. Once upon a time, Russia was seen as part of the problem. Now Russia is becoming part of the solution.

Ladies and Gentlemen

For those who have always equated NATO with tanks massed along the inner-German border, the roles I just outlined for the Alliance may seem over-ambitious. But they are not.

Twelve years ago a NATO official argued that the Alliance had to take global developments into account. He did not share the view that what was happening in faraway regions concerned only those Allies with particular links to these regions. He argued that "less today than ever before can we see Alliance security as something that stops at our borders".

That NATO official was, of course, Manfred Wörner. So I have no doubt that he would approve of NATO's course today.

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).