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One Essential Characteristic of the Alliance’s Response Is its Inclusiveness

One Essential Characteristic of the Alliance’s Response Is its Inclusiveness

Speech by Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Secretary General of NATO, Wellington, New Zealand, at Victoria University Institute of Policy Studies and New Zealand Institute of International Affairs, March 31, 2005. Source: NATO.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is the first official visit by a NATO Secretary General to New Zealand, and I have been looking forward to coming here. Let me tell you that I have been deeply impressed by the very warm reception that I have been given here, and so have my wife Jeannine and the NATO colleagues who have travelled with me.

I believe that my visit today comes at a very opportune moment. We may be literally at opposite ends of the globe, but New Zealand and NATO have come a lot closer together these last few years. Values that we have shared for many years  democracy, freedom, basic human rights -- have come under threat. Our security interests have converged to a considerable extent.  And so it made eminent sense for Foreign Minister Goff to visit NATO Headquarters last month, and for me to come to Wellington today, to discuss those common interests, and how we can best address them.

Today, I would like to talk to you about the changing international security environment and the challenges it produces before going on to relate these challenges to increased NZ/NATO cooperation.

I want to start my remarks to you today with a short trip back down memory lane. Fifteen years ago, when the Cold War ended, many people predicted the end of NATO. With the disappearance of the Soviet Union and that of the Warsaw Pact, many felt that the Alliance could simply declare victory and fold up its tents as well.

Instead, NATO proved its worth many times over during the 1990s. The Alliance was instrumental in putting an end to years of conflict in the Balkans. We engaged countries throughout Europe and into Central Asia in a vast network of dialogue and cooperation. And by opening up to include ten more member countries, we helped to create a Europe whole and free, and united in democracy.

At the start of this new century, and especially after the events of 11 September 2001, the international security environment changed dramatically again.  And once more, NATO’s role in this new environment was questioned by some. Indeed, two years ago, when tensions rose over Iraq, quite a few people predicted a transatlantic divorce.

Since 2001, however, there has been a strong reappraisal of the transatlantic relationship in general, and of NATO in particular. I have experienced that reappraisal very personally in my meetings with Alliance leaders during my first year in office. And it was very clearly also the main message that came out of the NATO Summit meeting in Brussels last month, right at the start of President Bush’s first visit to Europe following his re-election.

This reappraisal of the Alliance is really no big surprise. It is based on a sober assessment of the new security environment; an acknowledgement that a number of realities in that security environment require Europe and North America to work together; and a recognition of NATO’s proven record of uniting America and Europe’s political and military weight behind a common purpose of delivering greater security.

What are the defining features of the new security environment that Europe and America are responding to through NATO? I want to highlight three.

  • First of all, our new security environment demands new security thinking. 

Today, providing security means being able to project stability  including to regions outside Europe. We are confronted with a new, lethal breed of terrorism. We face the prospect of weapons of mass destruction getting into the hands of irresponsible individuals with evil intentions. And we must live with failing states causing instability in their own region and well beyond. These are threats that present themselves around the globe. Threats that we must tackle when and where they emerge. For if we do not, they will escalate, and we will suffer the consequences, right on our doorsteps.

NATO has drawn the right conclusions from this new reality. It has turned from a “Eurocentric” Alliance into an instrument that we can use wherever our common security interests demand it. Taking control of the stabilisation effort in Afghanistan was a decisive step in this reorientation of the Alliance. And we confirmed it by our more recent decision to start a training mission in Iraq.

Now, let there be no mistake; the Alliance is not turning into a global policeman -- patrolling the world to root out evil wherever it may occur. That is something our member countries are neither interested in nor capable of. But we do all realise that, given the changed circumstances, a successful security policy cannot be based solely on a regional and reactive posture. With Afghanistan and Iraq we have taken on two immediate and very challenging tasks. And we have set in train a comprehensive programme to make NATO better capable of responding to similar challenges in the future.

  • That leads me to a second feature of today’s security environment, namely the need for modern military capabilities

Today, forces that are geared mainly to territorial defence are  to put it bluntly -- a waste of money. What we really need are forces that can react quickly, that can be deployed over distance, and then sustained over a long period of time to get the job done.

NATO has been pushing that kind of military transformation. We have adapted our strategy and concepts, our military command and force structures, and our internal organisation and procedures. With our Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defence Battalion and the NATO Response Force, we have multinational force packages in place that are specifically geared to some of the most pressing requirements. And each of our 26 member nations is taking a hard look at its own defence programmes and structures, to make sure that they are relevant to today’s demands.

We have already done a lot to transform our military capabilities, but we still have more to do. We have to make improvements in areas that are critical to modern operations, such as strategic lift and air-to-air refuelling. We have to make sure that a much larger proportion of our military forces are readily available for operations away from Alliance territory. And we have to arrive at a better mix of forces capable of performing both high intensity combat tasks and the kind of post-conflict reconstruction work in which New Zealand forces have established such an excellent reputation.

  • I want to elaborate a bit more on a third and final feature of our security environment  which is that tackling the new security challenges requires the broadest possible international coalition. 

The reason for this is clear enough. It is because the new risks and threats themselves defy borders.  And because we will only be able to get a grip on them through a multilateral approach that effectively combines multiple disciplines, countries and organisations.

NATO is an important platform for that kind of cooperation. In recent years we have given fresh impetus to our Partnership relations with 20 countries all over Europe and into Central Asia. We are helping many of our Partners with the reform of their security sectors, and the development of effective, democratically controlled defence institutions. And we have also made the new security challenges a major focus of cooperation with all our Partners  including our special Partners Russia and Ukraine  and their response has been very encouraging.

We have, at the same time, been working hard to enhance our cooperation with other international organisations. This applies to the United Nations and the OSCE, with whom we have cooperated increasingly effectively in the Balkans over the past ten years. But it applies in particular to NATO’s relationship with the European Union.

The European Union is developing as a security actor  which is not only natural but also desirable. It is now widely acknowledged  on both sides of the Atlantic -- that a stronger Europe will widen our arsenal of response options to the new security challenges. And it is widely accepted in Europe that a stronger security role should not amount to a duplication of what is already available through NATO. NATO and the EU are making rather good progress in coordinating the development of modern military capabilities. I am optimistic that we can extend our cooperation to additional areas where we have a common security interest, where we can complement each other, and reinforce each other’s efforts. And here I mean functional areas  such as the fight against terrorism  as well as geographical areas  such as the Caucasus and Central Asia.

One region that is bound to affect our security for the foreseeable future is the southern Mediterranean and the broader Middle East. Luckily, we have seen quite a positive dynamic in that entire region over the past few months. NATO is keen to help sustain that momentum, and to promote greater stability for all. Which is why we are working hard to deepen our Dialogue with seven countries in Northern Africa and the Middle East. And why we have launched a new initiative last year to build new relationships with countries in the Persian Gulf region. Both programmes have met with a very positive response from the countries concerned.

  • Finally, NATO has also been eager to foster dialogue and cooperation with countries even further afield.

Given the fact that NATO troops are now deployed in Afghanistan, it is no surprise that countries such as neighbouring China and Pakistan have shown interest in talking with us. We are always open to developing such contacts and promoting better mutual understanding. At the same time, however, the active, practical cooperation of this country -- New Zealand  with the Alliance, is of quite a different order  and very welcome indeed.

For many years, New Zealand has shown a strong realisation that its own peace and security cannot be seen in isolation from developments elsewhere. A realisation, also, that even a relatively small country can make a significant contribution to security and stability -- in its own region and well beyond. And a keen awareness that working together with other nations in a larger organisational context can be a real force-multiplier. As a Dutchman, I can very well identify with that security perspective. As Secretary General of NATO, an Alliance which has always been keen to broaden the base of its peacekeeping operations, I wholeheartedly commend your engagement.

In the Balkans, soldiers from this country have stood shoulder to shoulder with NATO forces for well over a decade. Together, we have helped to end the bloodshed in the region, and to create a brighter future for all its citizens. Following the handover of NATO’s peacekeeping responsibilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to the European Union late last year, the Alliance’s activities are now mainly focused in Kosovo. It speaks volumes for your country’s engagement that you retain a presence both in Bosnia and in Kosovo.

New Zealand has also deployed forces to Afghanistan.  Your country recognises -- like the NATO Allies and the United Nations Security Council -- that a failure to stabilise and return democracy to Afghanistan would enhance the risk of terror threatening our societies and of even more drugs being planted and ending up on our streets.  And so you are contributing to the United Nations’ efforts in Afghanistan and those of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.  You are assisting with the training of military and police officers, and you are helping the Afghan Government to extend its authority by leading a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamyan Province.

Those are all very valuable contributions by New Zealand.  They have helped to build greater confidence and security  as was demonstrated by the particularly high voter turn-out in Bamyan for last year’s presidential elections. At a time when Afghanistan is moving to crucial parliamentary and provincial elections later this year, your decision to extend your PRT through September shows genuine commitment.

NATO will be there with you, to see through our common effort.  Building on our many years of effective cooperation in the past.  Determined to uphold our common values and to guard our societies against crime and terror. And confident that, together, we can help to build a better future for Afghanistan, and deal a decisive blow to terrorism.

        Ladies and Gentlemen,

The NATO that I have described to you is an Alliance in action. An Alliance of 26 democratic nations who understand the realities of today’s volatile security environment  who realise the need for Europe and America to work together in responding to those realities -- and who are using the NATO framework to give shape and direction to that response.

  • One essential characteristic of the Alliance’s response is its inclusiveness. 

We realise that NATO alone cannot meet the new global threats to our security.  That we need to work together with other nations and organisations for our contributions to international security to have maximum effect.

That approach has found resonance here in New Zealand. Time and again, your country has proved able to define its security interests clearly and consistently, and to act accordingly. Your own response to the latest changes in our security environment has been typically steadfast. We are privileged to be working together with you, and look forward to continuing our cooperation in the future. 

    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).