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The Role of the Military in Combating Terrorism


The Role of the Military in Combating Terrorism

The fight against terrorism is one of the priority areas for cooperation in the NATO-Russia Council, which brings together the now 26 NATO member countries and Russia as equal partners. Keynote Address by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, at the NATO Russia Council (NRC) conference on the role of the military in combating terrorism, Norfolk, Virginia, USA, Monday, 5 April 2004. Source: NATO.




Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is the third NATO-Russia conference on the role of the military in combating terrorism – and yet again it takes place in the shadow of a great tragedy.  The first meeting took place just a few months after terrorists attacked New York and Washington.  The second not long after the hostage taking in Moscow’s Dubrovka Street.  And we are meeting today just weeks after the devastating bomb attacks in the centre of Madrid.

In New York, Washington, Moscow, Istanbul and Madrid – but also in Bali, Casablanca, Riyadh or lately in Tashkent – a new breed of terrorism has shown its true face. A breed of terrorism which harbours no clearly identifiable political grievance;  which tolerates no argument;  which respects no national boundaries, political systems, ideologies or religions;  and which threatens all of us -- everywhere, and every day.

Because this new breed of terrorism sets itself no limitations, our response to it must be equally determined and comprehensive -- or we are sure to fail.  Fighting this menace effectively requires the fullest possible international cooperation, especially in sharing intelligence, law enforcement, border security and the tracking of terrorist finances.  But the military, too, has a role to play, for a variety of reasons.

First, because terrorist groups like Al-Qaida operate at an ever-higher level in the spectrum of violence, blurring the distinction between terrorism and warfare.  Second, because the difference between internal and external security is also fading, and the military may have to deal with challenges that police forces are simply unable to handle.  And third, because it will sometimes be impossible to deal with terrorist threats using defensive measures only.

If the military has a role to play in fighting this new kind of terrorism, so must NATO as the world’s most effective military alliance.  And we have started to rise to this challenge.

At our Prague Summit, in November 2002, NATO recognised terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and “failed states” as the defining security challenges of this new century.  And we decided to send our forces to wherever they are needed to meet these challenges.

Last year, the Alliance acted upon that decision by taking charge of the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.  Today, we are fully engaged in spreading security and stability in that war-torn country, helping the Government to extend its authority, and assisting other international actors to contribute in their own way.

Last month, in the Mediterranean, NATO's successful maritime operation, Operation Active Endeavour, has been expended to cover the entire Mediterranean sea.

But, in Prague, we also embarked upon a comprehensive programme of military transformation to meet the new threats, and to defeat them. Today, that transformation is well underway.

We are implementing a leaner command structure, in which Alliance Command Transformation here in Norfolk occupies a central role.  Our NATO Response Force has been stood up, and it is on course to achieve full operational capability by October 2006.

We have also made major advances in protecting ourselves against Weapons of Mass Destruction, including through the launch of a special CBRN defence battalion last year.  And both individual Alliance members and several groups of Allies are developing the kind of modern capabilities we need to face the new threats together. And as recently, as last Friday, Ministers of Foreign Affairs agreed on the need to go even further and to develop an enhanced package of measures on the fight against terrorism by Istanbul.

The new NATO is tackling today’s threats head-on, well away from its traditional area of operations.  It is an Alliance determined to modernise its structures and capabilities – in order to be able to make a meaningful and sustained contribution to what is bound to be a long and difficult struggle.

But the Alliance also recognises that any effective response to the terrorist threat needs to be broad-based and inclusive. As our geographic horizons have broadened, we have deepened our relations with other major organisations like the UN, the EU and the OSCE. We have reached out to our Partners in the Balkans, the Caucasus and Central Asia; and intensified our dialogue with countries in the Mediterranean region.

But none of our partnerships is more vital than our “new quality” relationship with Russia.  We have developed a real spirit of trust and cooperation, which is reflected in regular and frank political dialogue.  We have also developed a broad programme of practical cooperation in areas as diverse as theatre missile defence, peacekeeping, and search and rescue at sea.  And the expansion of our military-to-military cooperation has been truly spectacular -- from 7 joint exercises and events in 2002, to a planned 57 this year.

At the same time, common cause in the fight against terrorism remains at the core of our new relationship.  The NATO-Russia Council has agreed on intelligence assessments of various aspects of the problem.  And we are examining closer cooperation in airspace management to prevent terrorist threats to civil aviation.

Our scientists have pooled their efforts in areas such as explosives detection, the secure decommissioning of nuclear submarines, cyber-security, and the psychological and social causes, effects and responses to terrorism. We have tested and enhanced our capabilities to manage the consequences of terrorist attacks, with the large scale exercise that Russia hosted in Noginsk in 2002, and another planned in Kaliningrad this coming June.

All this is good progress -- and it is welcome progress.  But I believe it is not nearly enough -- given the seriousness of the challenge before us, and the resources, skills and experience that we possess.

The lethal new breed of terrorism we face today calls for realism, and for concrete action.  At the moment, national sovereignty and security requirements often complicate multinational responses to acute crisis situations, and that is not going to change overnight.  But surely there is scope for more effective cooperation to prepare for and deal with problems that are longer-term and larger-scale.  We should explore that scope more urgently, including here today.

I also believe that we should be much more practical about cooperation in the fight against terrorism.  I used to be diplomat and then a politician – so you would expect me to defend the merits of dialogue, and I will.  But I also know that, at the end of the day, what really matters are deeds, not words.  And so the focus of today’s meeting should be on enhancing cooperation where it really matters – which is in the field.

Speaking about cooperation where it matters, Afghanistan and the wider region around it must be a key concern to Russia as well as to NATO.  In the NRC we have conducted regular and detailed consultations on the situation in Afghanistan.  I hope that we can make progress soon on Russia’s offers of assistance to ISAF.  And I am heartened by Russia’s interest in engaging with the Alliance on the challenges and opportunities in this broader geographic region, and what we in the NATO-Russia Council can contribute to meet them.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Since last week, NATO – and the NATO-Russia Council – have seven new members.  The security coalition between NATO and Russia has been strengthened -- and so has our ability to address common challenges, and to promote positive change.  One critical priority before us is to make our joint efforts in the fight against terrorism as coherent and effective as they can be.  We look to you to provide fresh ideas and initiative in carrying this work forward.

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).