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NATO’s Views of the Changing Security Environment

NATO’s Views of the Changing Security Environment

Speech delivered by Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Secretary General of NATO. In Tokyo, Japan, April 4, 2005. Source: NATO.

    Excellencies,
    Ladies and Gentlemen

This is my first visit to Japan as NATO’s Secretary General. And I am very happy, and indeed proud, to have this opportunity to be here with you today and to address such a distinguished audience.

These past few days I have visited New Zealand and Australia. And in the past few months I have been to Algeria, Jordan, Israel and Morocco. These are countries that did not regularly feature in the official travel schedule of any of my predecessors. But I have gone to all these countries to discuss with their governments how we can work together to promote our security. And that is one clear indication of just how much our strategic environment has changed in recent years. Today I would like to set out NATO’s views of that changing security environment and then consider how this environment encourages NATO and Japan to work together.

Geographically, NATO Allies and Japan may be far apart from one another. But in today’s world, geographic distance has little meaning. Japan and the transatlantic community face very similar challenges. All of us need to come to grips with a security landscape that bears little resemblance to the past, and that requires a radical rethinking of the way we do business.

When I was a student and it seems ages ago -- the strategic environment was much less complex, and much more predictable. With the world divided essentially into two blocs, we faced one clear security threat. As a result, all we needed was one single response to deter and defend against that threat. And just as Japan relied upon its Alliance with the US to defend itself against that threat, we did so through NATO.

This situation lasted for four decades. Forty years in which NATO and the Warsaw Pact were locked in confrontation like two giant Sumo wrestlers facing each other before their bout. And perhaps this explains why many people still think of NATO as a passive, static organisation.

But the reality is quite different. NATO has long ceased to be a static, “Eurocentric” organisation, geared exclusively towards deterrence and defence. It has proven to be much more than just a collective security agreement for defence of our territory. Since the end of the Cold War, the Alliance has become a very flexible and very creative instrument for shaping change. An instrument that North America and Europe can use whenever and wherever their security interests demand it in today’s changing security environment.

What are the main characteristics of this new security environment? Globalisation is an obvious one. Let there be no mistake. Globalisation is, above all, an opportunity, and Japan is a textbook example of how to turn globalisation to one’s own advantage.

But globalisation also has a darker side. It makes our societies more vulnerable for example, by giving more states, and unfortunately in these times more non-state actors, the means to develop weapons of mass destruction.

  • Another major challenge is the phenomenon of “failed states” states without governance that plunge into disorder and violence.

Above all, however, terrorism has emerged as a challenge of unprecedented magnitude. Many of today’s terrorists may reject modernity, but they have been quite astute in using modern technology to inflict enormous damage on our societies be it in the Tokyo subway or at the World Trade Center in New York. And as we unfortunately all know, in many places in the world.

No one has explained these changes in our strategic environment more succinctly than Henry Kissinger, when he said that today, our main concern is no longer the threat of large-scale military invasion. This is true as much for North Korea’s nuclear programme as it would be if Afghanistan would become a failed state again as it was under the Taliban regime.

  • So how can we cope with this security environment?

Certainly not by a wait-and-see approach. We cannot simply sit on the sidelines and wait for good tidings. This would amount to an abdication of our common responsibility to build a better world. The only realistic way forward is to engage to tackle the problems where they emerge.

I very well realise this is an approach that presents certain difficulties for the people of Japan and certainly not one you could effortlessly replicate in all spheres, but it is the approach that NATO has chosen to take.

If the Balkans are largely at peace today, and if countries in that region are now firmly on their way into an integrated Europe, it is because NATO got engaged. NATO soldiers stopped the bloodshed in Bosnia. NATO stopped and then reversed the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. And NATO’s presence created the safe environment for other institutions from the United Nations to the European Union to do their part in helping reconstruction and reconciliation.

NATO also plays a major role in bringing back security and stability to Afghanistan. Today, that country is no longer under the Taliban boot. Al Qaida has lost a safe haven from which to plan its attacks against liberal democratic trading nations such as our own. NATO is extending its presence in the country, to help the Government of President Karzai to assert its authority, and to help nations like Japan assist that Government at capacity building within the framework of the Bonn Process. We are determined to continue to help the Afghan people to realise their dream of a better future. And I know the ways in which Japan is playing an important role as one of the major donors in Afghanistan and we have to greatly appreciate that role.

More recently, NATO started a mission to train Iraqi security forces. It will take time for the political process to take root in Iraq, to build strong and effective institutions, instill respect for the rule of law, and encourage economic progress. Japan’s efforts to repair Iraq’s infrastructure in Southern Iraq are immensely valuable in this regard. But all these reconstruction efforts will depend critically on the ability of the Iraqi authorities to provide basic security for their people. And NATO is determined to help them to meet that challenge.

What makes this NATO Alliance -- an organisation that many people thought would vanish after the end of the Cold War -- so strong, and so durable? I believe that the answer is quite simple. The transatlantic community that has emerged within NATO is not only a community of shared interests -- but also very much a community of shared values.

This is not to say that all NATO nations share identical views on all aspects of politics and society. Each country has its distinct historical experience and cultural background. But on key issues -- such as the need to protect democracy, pluralism and fundamental freedoms -- all our 26 NATO member countries agree. And in NATO, as in Japan, these values are non-negotiable. And this shared conviction gives NATO its unique strength and cohesion.

As NATO Allies, we know that, if we want to uphold these values, values that we share with your nation, we must be prepared to protect them. We were prepared to do that during the Cold War, when the stakes were so abundantly clear. And we defended our values once again when they were threatened in the Balkans, when deportation trains ran through Europe once more and raised ghosts from a Europe we thought had been buried half a century ago.

We must also be prepared to protect our values now, against a range of new threats -- a lethal, indiscriminate breed of terrorism; the risk of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We must be prepared to act; and we will be.

The NATO Allies need modern military capabilities to carry out those new types of missions far away from Alliance territory. If you will forgive my analogy, we need to transform from being a Sumo wrestler - large, and slow to react (although my colleague who has lived in Japan tells me Sumo wrestlers can be surprisingly fleet of foot) - and into a Ninja warrior quick and agile. We need forces that can deploy with little notice and to faraway places. And we have to be able to support these forces until they get their job done. We have already been quite successful in acquiring those modern capabilities, but we realise that there is still a lot left to do.

We have to make improvements in areas that are critical to modern military operations, such as strategic lift and air-to-air refuelling. And we want to ensure that a much larger proportion of our military forces are readily available for operations far away from home.

We also realize full well that tackling today’s global threats requires the broadest possible international cooperation and so we are enhancing relations with our partner countries across Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia, and in North Africa and the Middle East. 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 made the new security challenges a major focus of cooperation with all our partners including our special partners Russia and Ukraine.

  • And, in tackling new threats, we are keen to work more closely together with countries that are even further a field, including very much your country, Japan.

The evolution of post-war Japan is as impressive as that of the transatlantic community. You have built a superb reputation as an economic powerhouse, and as a generous country that is fully prepared to share its wealth with less fortunate neighbours. And you underlined this generosity just recently with your response to the Tsunami disaster.

In addition to this economic leadership role, you have also come to recognise the importance of making a more concrete contribution to international peace and security. Your new National Defence Programme Outline makes clear that improving the international security environment is now a major pillar of Japan’s security policy, and that is a major breakthrough.

This evolution in Japan’s security policy has already manifested itself in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Japan has taken on major responsibilities in addition to lending financial assistance. Your leading role in disarmament efforts in Afghanistan is hgihly appreciated. With 800 members of the Japanese Self Defence Force in Iraq, you have taken on considerable military responsibilities in that country as well. And like many NATO Allies, you are also an active participant in the Proliferation Security Initiative that seeks to prevent the flow of weapons of mass destruction.

For all these reasons, the NATO-Japan relationship is destined to become more intense, and more effective. Increasingly, our military forces may be called upon to work together to defend our common interests. NATO has an enormous track record in crisis management and peacekeeping, and Japan will benefit from the considerable expertise that we have to share. Japan has already participated in several NATO-led disaster response exercises, and that is another promising area for fruitful cooperation. The fight against terrorism and WMD proliferation are also important areas in which I believe we should work more closely together. Indeed, from NATO’s point of view, there really are no limits on how far we can take our cooperation.

For a number of years now, NATO and Japan have maintained a security dialogue to stay abreast of each other’s views on the security challenges in our respective regions. Since our security concerns and interests have now become much more similar, the importance of our relationship has only grown. I was pleased to learn from your Prime Minister today that that is also his assessment. And so I am confident that we can deepen our cooperation, and make it more effective.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

  • The Japanese constitution calls for Japan to be a force for peace.

In the past, this obligation was widely interpreted as an obligation to limit one’s global engagement to economic assistance. Today, however, this interpretation no longer corresponds to reality. Today, the greatest service that we Japan and the NATO Allies can render to peace and stability is active engagement. To help out where help is needed through political encouragement, financial or technical assistance, or indeed the deployment of our military forces.

Geography may once have separated us, but common values and interests now unite us more strongly than ever before. The fact that we are both prepared to protect and promote those values and interests makes us natural partners in upholding international stability. And that is why I see a great future for the NATO-Japan relationship.

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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