NATO and Australian Security Interests Have Converged Greatly
NATO and Australian Security Interests Have Converged
Speech delivered by Jaap de Hoop
Scheffer, NATO Secretary General at the Australian Defence College,
Canberra, Australia, April 1, 2005.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It follows a visit to New Zealand earlier this week, and to
Japan in the next few days. Let me tell you how much I have been looking forward
to travelling down under. The world has changed greatly over the last few years
and our security interests have converged greatly. In my view NATO and Australia
sit side by side in their perspective on international security. Unfortunately,
the same cannot be said given my experience of the 28 hour flight from Brussels,
of our geography. Given this convergence of views I believed it was high time
for me to come and visit, to discuss these common interests, and how we can best
I know how this country was shocked by the Bali bombing of October 2002, and I
want to use this opportunity to pay my respects to the many Australians victims.
The Bali bombing was a terrible tragedy. But it was also a strong warning. A
warning that this part of the world, just like any other, is not immune from the
new breed of terrorism that first showed its ugly face in New York and
Washington in September of 2001.
Indeed, this new, indiscriminate, form of terrorism has not left one of our
countries unaffected. It is a fundamental challenge, not just to our security,
but also to the values that our countries have shared for many years – democracy,
freedom, and basic human rights. Values that the NATO Alliance has successfully
defended, and promoted, for more than half a century.
I have experienced that reappraisal very personally in my
meetings with Alliance leaders during my first year in office. And it was very
clearly 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 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
First of all, our new security environment demands new
security thinking. Today, providing security means being able to project
stability – including to regions far from home. We are not only confronted with
a new, lethal breed of terrorism. We also have to seriously consider the
prospect of weapons of mass destruction getting into the hands of irresponsible
individuals with evil intentions. And we must deal with failing states that
cause instability in their own region and well beyond.
In such a world of globalised insecurity, a regional approach simply no longer
works. We have to address these new security challenges when and where they
emerge – or they will show up on our doorstep. And that is why NATO has turned
from a “Eurocentric” Alliance into a much more flexible instrument with which we
can project stability wherever our common security interests demand it.
Having said this, let me be clear on one thing; NATO is not turning into a
global policeman – patrolling the world to root out evil wherever it may occur.
Our member countries have neither the political will nor the military means to
do so. But if our vital interests are at stake, and if there is consensus among
the Allies to act, then NATO has to be ready. That is why we are conducting an
anti-terrorist maritime operation in the Mediterranean. It is why we took charge
of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. And it is why
NATO launched a training mission in post-Saddam Iraq.
It is also why we have set in train a comprehensive programme to make NATO
better capable of responding to similar challenges in the future. And that leads
me to the second feature of our new security environment, which is the need for
modern military capabilities.
What we really need are forces that can react quickly, that
can be deployed over long distances, and then sustained over an extended period
of time in order to get the job done.
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: requirements that
most Allies could not meet alone. 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 much 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 post-conflict reconstruction work.
I want to elaborate a bit more on a third and final feature of today’s
environment. Namely, that tackling the new security challenges requires the
broadest possible international coalition. The reason for this is clear enough.
NATO is an important platform for this 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 militaries, 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
This applies to the United Nations and the OSCE, with whom we
have cooperated increasingly effectively in the Balkans over the past ten years,
and who are now active in Afghanistan alongside the Alliance. But it applies in
particular to NATO’s relationship with the European Union.
The European Union is developing as a security actor in its own right – 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 for the EU should not amount to a
duplication of what is already available through NATO. We had a very smooth
handover of NATO’s peacekeeping responsibilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to
the European Union late last year. I am optimistic that NATO and the EU can
build on that momentum to extend our cooperation to other 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 and the modernisation of military capabilities – as well as
geographical areas – such as the Caucasus and Central Asia.
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 Gulf region. Both programmes have met with a very positive
response from the countries concerned.
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. But I am
sure that our Chinese, Pakistani and other dialogue partners would agree that
the strong interest of this country – Australia – in further developing
pragmatic cooperation with the Alliance, is of quite a different order – and
most welcome indeed.
Australia has long been aware of the relationship between its own security and
wellbeing and that of countries and regions elsewhere on the globe. Australian
soldiers fought to help end the two World Wars that tarnished this past century
and through their heroics, Gallipolli became a byword for bravery in Europe.
Your country has a very proud tradition of contributing to crisis management
operations in regions as diverse as East Timor, the Middle East and Iraq. Your
record in disaster relief is equally impressive, and highlighted by your strong
response to last year’s Tsunami disaster. Moreover, for the past few years,
Australia has worked hard, and with considerable success, to galvanise
cooperation among countries here in the Asia Pacific region – to engage them in
the fight against terrorism and in a common effort to counter the spread of
weapons of mass destruction.
We, Australia and NATO, have started to explore cooperation
in these two areas as well, and that looks very promising.
But our scope for practical, mutually beneficial cooperation
is far greater than this. Missile defence is another area of common interest, on
which our experts should continue to compare notes. There is a lot that we can
learn from our respective experiences in crisis management, reconstruction and
disaster relief operations. And we should strive to develop greater
interoperability between our military forces, to allow them to work together
effectively in any future contingencies that they may be asked to deal with.
Afghanistan is one country in which I could well see us working together in the
future, and I will discuss the possibility of greater Australian involvement in
that country’s security with my interlocutors here in Canberra today. NATO, for
its part, is determined to stabilise Afghanistan and to return democracy to this
troubled country, and so to reduce the risk of terror threatening our societies
and drugs ending up on our streets. But that effort is also very much in
Australia’s interest; drugs from Kabul could as well end up in Canberra as in
Australia and NATO are already present together in Iraq, and we have to get the
most out of our common effort in that country. The recent parliamentary
elections were a hopeful development, I would say a historic landmark with
millions of Iraqis defying all those who saw their country sinking ever deeper
into chaos. Yet it will take time for the political process to take root in
Iraq, to build strong and effective institutions, instil respect for the rule of
law, and encourage economic progress. All those efforts will depend critically
on the ability of the Iraqi authorities to provide basic security for their
people. And that ability will benefit greatly from the training of Iraqi
security forces in which Australia and NATO are now both closely involved. I am
not in doubt that there is much we can learn from Australia’s efforts, such as
embedding trainers in Iraqi units, in this regard.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In an interview a few weeks ago, your country’s Defence Minister said that
defence alone cannot defeat the threat of terror, that victory in the war
against terrorism required a multi-agency, multinational approach necessitating
new levels of cooperation.
I agree wholeheartedly with this assessment, and so do the 26 members of the
NATO Alliance. NATO alone cannot defeat the serious new threats to our values
and our security. We are well aware that we must work together with other
nations and organisations to uphold these values and to preserve our freedom and
Australia and NATO take very much the same view of the new security environment,
the threats that it poses, and how we should respond. That means that our
cooperation is bound to deepen, and to become more effective. And I very much
welcome and look forward to that.