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NATO and Australian  Security Interests Have Converged Greatly

NATO and Australian  Security Interests Have Converged Greatly

Speech delivered by Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO Secretary General at the Australian Defence College, Canberra, Australia, April 1, 2005. Source: NATO.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

  • My visit to Canberra is the first official visit by a NATO Secretary General to Australia.

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 address them.

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.

  • Since 2001, 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 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 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 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.

  • 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 long distances, and then sustained over an extended period of time in order to get the job done.

  • NATO has been pushing this 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: 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.

  • 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 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 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, 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.

  • 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 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, including here in this region.

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 Copenhagen.

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 security.

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.

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).

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