The Alliance Should Play a Political Role Commensurate with its Military
The Alliance Should Play a Political Role Commensurate with
its Military Importance
Berlin Speech by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop
Scheffer at the NATO Review conference. Berlin, Germany, October 6, 2004.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Once again, Christoph Bertram has drafted an excellent paper on the problems and
challenges facing NATO. As always, it raises some existential questions – as
always, therefore, it contains a good deal of gloom. But Christoph is not a
Cassandra. He may come across as such on occasion, for example when he predicted
ten years ago that NATO might not even reach the end of the decade. Now that was
clearly too gloomy!
On balance, however, I get the impression that he uses gloomy predictions not as
an end in themselves, but as a tool – a tool to sharpen our focus, a tool to
help us make up our own minds about what kind of Alliance we want, a tool to
assist us in making the right decisions. In short, he uses his thoughts to
provoke us into coming up with our own. And he succeeds.
Tonight, in my brief remarks, I want to address some of the issues that are
raised in the paper. There is certainly a lot of relevance in the central
premise – the premise that some nations or governments currently do not view
NATO as being as central to their security as it used to be, and that it was not
just the Iraq controversy that created this situation. There is more to it, so
let’s have a closer look. But before doing so, let’s first put things into
perspective by highlighting some of our recent achievements.
So what have we achieved? I would highlight just three points:
Everyone here in this room who remembers the debates on the
1999 Strategic Concept will also remember the discussion on NATO’s geographical
reach. At the time, we dodged this question by referring to the “Euro-Atlantic
region”. Today, NATO troops are in Afghanistan and we are preparing our training
mission in Iraq. Not so long ago the UN approached us with the question whether
NATO could be of assistance to a possible African Union-mission in Darfur. All
of this is a sea change in the way we think about – and potentially use – this
Alliance. NATO is no longer seen as a purely “euro-centric” instrument. And this
holds tremendous potential for the future of this Alliance.
Of course, we have to accelerate that transformation, but the
key point here is that all our nations have understood that maintaining forces
only for national, territorial defence is a waste of time, effort and resources.
And that, in itself, is major progress already.
In his paper, Christoph casts doubt on that very point, by
arguing that NATO should not try to constrain the EU. I don’t think that NATO is
guilty of that sin in the first place. In my view, the institutional haggling
Christoph refers to does not reflect a fundamental doubt about the legitimacy of
the EU as a security actor. We are working on a strategic and pragmatic
partnership – not as fast as I would like, but steadily.
All these achievements are tangible and real. They should give ample reason to
be optimistic about NATO’s future. Why, then, do some argue that something is
amiss? I’ll try to give the answer in one sentence: there is not enough
political debate in NATO. Not on the major challenges to our security and not on
the operations we decide to undertake.
Now, one might say that acting, after all, is more important than talking. Fair
enough. But it is the talking, the political consensus, the consultations, that
underpin our political stance and, if appropriate, subsequent operational
decisions with the weight, the credibility, and the cohesion they need to have.
What I have in mind is that the Alliance should as matter of course and by its
very nature be the place where Allies discuss fundamental security matters, not
just or only in view of reaching a consensus or making a decision, but in order
to exchange their views and to create understanding for the various points of
view even if the result is sometimes to agree to disagree. In other words, to be
the natural forum for the transatlantic security dialogue.
We definitely under-used NATO in this respect last year with regard to Iraq
before the things came to a climax. The agenda of the weekly NAC meetings only
featured routine items. It was a bit like the famous diary entry of Louis XVI on
the day the Bastille was stormed. It read: ’Aujourd’hui rien’. If Iraq was
discussed at all it was under ‘Any Other Business’.
The members of the Alliance share the same values and agree on the need to
project stability and to address the challenges to our security wherever and
whenever they arise. But there are, quite understandably, often differing views
on how to achieve our objectives. Therefore there is never an automaticity, an
Article 5-like reflex, when it comes to undertaking new operations. The case for
each and every operation has to be made – and convincingly – if we are to engage
with the full political weight and corresponding capabilities of the Alliance.
This is not just important for the political support of the mission itself, but
also for a successful force generation process thereafter. Nations will only
commit forces if they know that burden-sharing will be fair and that all Allies
will shoulder their part of the burden.
At the same time, the Alliance’s role as a political actor in those very regions
that we deploy to is not commensurate with its position as a key-enabler in
these regions and in the overall political process. In the Balkans, and even
more in Afghanistan, we provide the basis for all other efforts. But we don’t
seem to be very much involved in the political processes in these regions,
helping to bring about the conditions for longer-term stability. That we leave
up to others. To my mind, this is not a healthy division of labour. Something is
not quite right if for example a discussion in the NATO Council about the future
of Kosovo has to be triggered by a UN report thereon. It should be a regular
item on our agenda. The Alliance should play a political role commensurate with
its military importance, and this role should be based upon more profound, and
more sustained political dialogue among the Allies. After all, when taking
decisions on our presence in these regions, or continued presence, we need as
much clarity as we can get on the duration, size and risks of missions if we are
to convince Allies of the need to contribute over an extended period of time.
So far, so bad, you might say. But I remain optimistic. I believe that there are
several factors that will lead NATO to assume its role as a forum for political
Terrorism, failed states and the spread of weapons of mass
destruction are threats of an unprecedented nature. To respond to them
effectively requires transatlantic cooperation. True, the superglue of the
Soviet threat that bound us together during the Cold War is becoming unstuck.
Today, Allies may not always perceive threats in exactly the same way. But I am
convinced that the more all Allies absorb the full implications of the new
security environment, the closer their security outlook will again become. And
the more they will realise that the need for consultation and coordination among
them is actually not diminishing, but increasing – including within a dynamic
NATO. Without the U.S. there will be no world order – and it is in NATO where
the U.S. and its Allies meet in a structured relationship.
I already referred to the need for strong NATO-EU relations.
Right now, NATO-EU relations are still in a straitjacket. Our cooperation is
essentially limited to the Western Balkans. Consequently, our NAC-PSC agenda
looks pretty weak at times. But as I indicated earlier, this situation cannot
last. A true 21st century agenda will require NATO and the EU to broaden their
cooperation across the full spectrum of challenges: terrorism, proliferation,
failed states. Complementarity is the key word. And the broader this
relationship becomes, the more NATO will be forced to come up with coherent
views of its own. This will help stimulate political debate.
The same holds true for our cooperation with the UN. We are working together in
the Balkans and in Afghanistan, and I already mentioned Darfur. Clearly, the UN
approaches NATO primarily because of our unique ability for launching
multinational military operations. So they see us as a provider of military
services. But even if they may look at us functionally rather than politically,
there can be no doubt that closer cooperation with the UN will be a really
positive move. If we want to exploit this new momentum, however, we will not
only need a new level of political coordination with the UN. We will also need a
debate within NATO itself – about the ambitions of this Alliance, and about its
reach. Will it be an Alliance “tous azimuts”? Will it be the “gendarme du
monde”? In short, the need for debate has never been greater.
That factor lies within NATO itself. I believe that the
current unease with the political status quo will have an impact on our nations.
And I am determined to exploit this feeling of unease by pushing forward with
some practical proposals of my own, assuring more frequently high-level
political input into our discussions.
Can all this be done? Why not! Is it worth the effort? Absolutely! When I took
on the job as Secretary General of NATO nine months ago, the press often
referred to me as a bridgebuilder. Indeed, strengthening the transatlantic
relationship – and keeping it together – is one of my key objectives. But you
have to push things forward even if you encounter resistance. Either you keep
moving or you fall over.
And it has become very clear to me during my time in office that this Alliance
can be pushed forward. That it can adapt to changes. And that one must not judge
this Alliance against the outdated yardsticks of the Cold War.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
NATO has demonstrated beyond any doubt that it can act. I believe that the time
has now come to bring the acting and the talking into a sound and sustainable
balance. I believe that our debate here at the NATO Review Conference can help
us move into that direction. And I will do whatever I can as the Alliance’s
Secretary General to encourage such progress.
Thank you very much.