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A New Atlanticism for the 21<sup>st</sup>Century

A New Atlanticism for the 21st Century

The conference on “Atlantic Alliance at a New Crossroads Conference” was organized by the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation. Speech by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. Source: NATO.

NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer addresses the German Marshall Fund/TESEV conference, ‘NATO at a New Crossroads’. NATO Photo, Istanbul, June 27, 2004.

  • Ladies and Gentlemen,

Last year was, by any standards, a tough year for transatlantic relations and for the Alliance. The controversy over Iraq pitted European countries against each other. It created major frictions across the Atlantic. And it provoked many pundits to dust off every conceivable stereotype about the “irreconcilable differences” between America and Europe.

Today, the situation is markedly different. There is a new momentum in transatlantic security cooperation. And there is a reappraisal of NATO as the major instrument for that cooperation.

How did these positive changes come about? I believe there are three main reasons.

The first reason is that those who cultivated the notion of an inescapable transatlantic divorce were wrong all along. Europe and North America can disagree, sometimes quite strongly, but they remain the world’s closest community – not only in trade or shared security interests, but also in common values. The fact of the matter is that America remains Europe’s No. 1 strategic partner, and that Washington’s need for likeminded Allies will inevitably lead it to Europe. And, frankly, I cannot see this changing.

The second reason why we witness a return to realism is that the extreme views that used to dominate so much of the Iraq debate have become increasingly discredited. Those U.S. unilateralists who thought that the United States didn’t really need Allies have come to realise that the U.S. not only needs Allies, but also the Alliance.

At the same time, notions of turning Europe into a "counterweight" to the United States have also floundered. Because Europe simply does not want to define itself in opposition to the United States.

The third reason for moderation is our overall security environment. Terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and failed states all confront us with new and unprecedented challenges. Meeting these challenges requires continued transatlantic cooperation, no matter how difficult it may appear at times. And it requires a framework like NATO – a framework that offers more predictability and consistency than any “coalition of the willing” could ever provide.

These three factors have, in my view, been instrumental in bringing back some much-needed realism to the transatlantic security debate.

But let there be no mistake. When I admit to a certain sense of relief, it is not because I am somehow hoping that we could safely return to the transatlantic status quo ante, pre-Iraq. This is impossible. As a matter of fact, it is also unnecessary. We don’t need nostalgia. What we need instead is a new transatlantic security consensus post-Iraq. And I believe that this consensus is already coming together – with NATO as its major catalyst.

In the remainder of my remarks, I would like to sketch some of those key elements of a new transatlantic security consensus, built on a transformed NATO Alliance. And I will also point out how each of these elements will be dealt with, one way or another, by our Summit meeting here tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.

The first element of a new transatlantic security consensus is the need to project stability where it matters. In a strategic environment that is marked by terrorism, failed states and proliferation, projecting stability is a precondition for ensuring our security. If we do not tackle the problems where they emerge, they will end up on our doorstep.

For NATO, this means being ready to act outside of Europe. You will recall that, until very recently, this very notion was highly controversial. There was a time when even going to the Balkans was seen as revolutionary. Today, NATO is leading ISAF in Afghanistan – and that is widely seen as the right thing to do.

Tomorrow’s Summit will demonstrate that NATO is absorbing its new mission of projecting stability to the full. We will extend our presence in Afghanistan. We will strengthen our anti-terrorist operation “Active Endeavour” in the Mediterranean, by including partner countries. And we will strengthen relations with other countries, from our Partners in the Caucasus and Central Asia, to others, such as Australia or Japan.

The significance of this evolution can hardly be overstated. After more than half a century, NATO is finally turning into a framework for transatlantic action wherever our security interests demand it. This is a sea change in the way we think about – and employ – this Alliance. And it holds enormous potential for the future of NATO as a transatlantic instrument.

This brings me to the second element of a new transatlantic security consensus –the need for new military capabilities. If NATO is to undertake missions potentially in faraway places, we need different forces – forces that are slimmer, tougher, and faster; forces that reach further and stay in the field longer, but that can still punch hard. In short, if we take our new missions seriously, we must embrace military transformation in all its aspects.

NATO has been a very effective catalyst to push forward this military transformation. And it is delivering results. Our Allied Command Transformation is up and running. At tomorrow’s Summit, we will change the command of the NATO Response Force, which will soon have reached its initial operational capability. We will mark the full operational capability of our Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defence Battalion. Theatre Missile Defence is coming along as well. And we will initiate a review of our approach to force generation – because we need to ensure that our military means continue to match our political ambitions.

The third element of a new transatlantic security consensus is the recognition of the European Union as a genuine security actor. I am aware that, for some, particularly on the other side of the Atlantic, recognising the EU as a legitimate security player does not come easy. And I am the first to admit that NATO and the EU have had their share of difficulties.

But I am also among those who believe that any sustainable transatlantic security consensus must take the reality of European integration into account – and this includes a security dimension. And I am also among those who believe that, as cooperation between our two institutions deepens, the competitive aspect of our relationship will fade, and give way to greater pragmatism and complementarity.

Tomorrow, at the Summit, we will highlight this complementarity. We will decide to terminate our SFOR mission in Bosnia as a result of the improved security situation there. The EU has declared its readiness to launch a mission of its own. And we will work with the EU to make it a success.

The fourth element of a new transatlantic security consensus is the need to engage North Africa and the broader Middle East. I don’t have to explain at length why these regions matter to the transatlantic community. Ron Asmus, who has been instrumental in launching this conference, has argued extensively and convincingly on this matter. All I would say here is that no other region’s development will affect transatlantic security more. And that a coherent and comprehensive transatlantic policy for this region is therefore essential.

Developing such a comprehensive policy will not be easy. What this region needs is genuine Western support, not Western dogmatism. And I maintain that if Don Rumsfeld and Joschka Fischer both think that it is a good idea, then we’ll get there eventually.

Tomorrow, at our Summit, we will make a start. We will deepen our Mediterranean Dialogue, by strengthening its military cooperation dimension. And we will launch our new Istanbul Cooperation initiative, offering practical cooperation in areas where NATO can make a real difference.

In designing this Initiative, we have put much emphasis on joint ownership. Because we see the countries of the broader Middle East as shareholders of a truly cooperative effort.

This brings me back to where I started – Iraq. Iraq will be the lens through which many people – including many of you here – will look at our Summit tomorrow. So close to the inauguration of a new Iraqi government, that is understandable.

16 Allies are currently on the ground in Iraq. NATO is supporting Poland in leading the multinational division. There is broad agreement that a stable Iraq is in the interest of all Allies. And just a few days ago, I received a letter by the interim Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi, asking NATO to enhance its support. I expect that tomorrows discussion NATO will respond positively to that request in support of UN Security Council Resolution 1546 and give a clear signal of our willingness to enhance our support to a soverign Iraqi Government, including through the training of Iraqi security forces. The transatlantic community is united in its commitment to a peaceful and democratic future for Iraq.

  • Ladies and Gentlemen,

Last year, when the Iraq controversy took its toll on the transatlantic community, some pundits were fond of portraying it as the end of Atlanticism. Today, we see more clearly.

Yes, the old, nostalgic Atlanticism is dead. The Cold War, with its focus on Europe, has finally ceased to serve as a frame of reference for the transatlantic relationship.

But something new is being put in its place: a new Atlanticism for the 21st century. An Atlanticism that looks to the challenges of today and tomorrow, not those of yesterday. An Atlanticism that also looks beyond Europe. And an Atlanticism that does not shy away from occasional controversy, but embraces it as a precondition for progress.

A transformed NATO is the place where this new Atlanticism is translated into common action. That is why tomorrow’s Summit is so important. It will give NATO more means to do the job. And it will signal that the transatlantic community remains the most powerful force for shaping the future.


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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).

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