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A Changing Alliance in a Changing World

A Changing Alliance in a Changing World


Speech by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. Bratislava, Slovakia, June 30, 2005. Source: NATO.


    Ladies and Gentlemen,


I had the pleasure of visiting Bratislava in March of last year, shortly before Slovakia joined the NATO Alliance, and it is good to be back. I have come to pay tribute to a country that has integrated very smoothly into NATO, and to discuss with its political leaders how to deal with the challenges that confront our Alliance. I wish to thank the Slovak Foreign Policy Association for offering me the opportunity to also address such a distinguished audience here today.


A few months ago, NATO celebrated its 56th anniversary. That is a respectable age for a person, and certainly for an international organisation. And yet, the Alliance remains as vibrant as ever. Several countries are keen to follow in Slovakia’s footsteps and to become a member of NATO. And the Alliance is generally recognised -- also by countries who are not at all interested in joining -- as a valuable anchor of stability in the changed international security environment.


I submit that the main reason for NATO’s enduring resilience is its adaptability – its ability to react to changing circumstances, and to deal with new challenges. Every time the strategic environment has changed over the past half century, the Alliance was able to respond to those changes, and to steer them in a positive direction.


We saw this at the end of the Cold War, when NATO transformed into a catalyst for dialogue and cooperation across this entire continent. We saw it a few years later, when former Yugoslavia collapsed into chaos, and when NATO became the centre of an unprecedented multinational coalition which ended the violence that threatened to engulf the Balkans. And we see NATO’s ability to adapt again today, in the way in which the Alliance responds to the latest dramatic shift in the international security environment.


Let me briefly set out the major changes in the security environment and the way in which Slovakia and its 25 Allies are responding to these changes through NATO.

It is clear, first of all, that the 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 this era of globalisation, we have to address the 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 that we can use to project stability whenever and wherever our common security interests demand it.


Let me be clear on one thing though; NATO is not turning into a global policeman ready to root out evil throughout the world. Our member countries have neither the political will nor the military means to do so. But we do all realise that if our vital interests are threatened, if the values that hold us together are at stake, and if there is consensus among the Allies to act, then NATO has to be ready.


That is why we launched a maritime operation to prevent terrorists and weapons from entering our countries across the Mediterranean Sea, called Operation Active Endeavour. It is why we took charge of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan -- and Slovakia makes an appreciated contribution to that operation. It is why we launched a training mission for the Security Forces of Iraq – in which Slovakia also plays a role. And it is why the Alliance is now preparing to provide assistance to the African Union’s peacekeeping operation in Darfur, a new mission on which I will say more in just a few minutes.


Before I move on, let me make one other thing clear: As we take on new missions, we do not forget our existing commitments, notably in the Balkans. During this critical period for the future of Kosovo, we maintain a robust troop presence there, with a sizeable Slovak contribution, and we continue to engage in the Contact Group and to support the Standards Implementation Process. We cooperate closely with Albania, Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (1) in the context of our Membership Action Plan. And we hold out the prospect of much enhanced cooperation, including Partnership for Peace membership, with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia and Montenegro – as long as these countries meet certain conditions, notably full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.


The second key feature of the new security environment is the need for modern military capabilities. Today, forces that are geared specifically to the defence of our territory are simply a waste of money. What we need are forces that we can send quickly to an emerging crisis, that we can deploy over long distances, and that we can sustain over an extended period of time, in order to allow them to return stability and security to the crisis region.


That is the kind of military transformation which NATO has been promoting these past few years. 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 – including Slovakia -- 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. Each NATO member must be able to make a contribution to the full spectrum of operations and make sure that a larger proportion of its military forces are readily available for operations away from our countries. These are critical challenges before all the Allies – and I count on Slovakia to continue to do its part in meeting them. Your country has a good record in defence reform and I am confident of your leaders' commitment to continue to implement these reforms and to allocate the necessary resources (2% of the GDP).


The third feature of the new security environment that I wish to highlight is the need for the broadest possible cooperation between states and institutions.  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 comprehensive, multilateral approach that effectively combines multiple disciplines, countries and organisations.


NATO is an important platform for this kind of cooperation.  We have made the new security challenges a major focus of Partnership relations with 20 countries from Sweden to Kazakhstan. We are helping many of our Partners with the reform of their militaries, and the development of effective, democratically controlled defence institutions. We have taken a number of specific measures to increase cooperation with our Partners in the Caucasus and Central Asia. We are intensifying our Mediterranean Dialogue with seven countries in Northern Africa and the Middle East.  And we have launched a special initiative to build cooperation with countries in the broader Middle East region, notably around the Persian Gulf.


At the same time, we continue to intensify our relations with our special Partners -- Russia and Ukraine.  I visited both these countries over the last few days, and I came away with a very favourable impression from both. In Moscow I discussed the tangible progress in NATO-Russia cooperation, including Russia’s contribution to NATO’s maritime operation in the Mediterranean Sea, and I was struck by the genuine interest of my Russian interlocutors to build on that progress. In Kyiv, I welcomed the Ukrainian Government’s aspiration to integrate into Euro-Atlantic structures. I noted the Government’s primary responsibility in introducing the necessary reforms to make that aspiration a reality. But I also assured my interlocutors of the Alliance’s strong commitment to assist Ukraine with these reforms, because their success is in the interest of Ukraine's longer term future and that of our relationship.   


In addition to enhancing our relations with individual nations, we have also been looking to establish more structured relationships with other international organisations. This applies to the United Nations, the OSCE and the many Non-Governmental Organisations, with whom we have worked increasingly effectively in the Balkans and more recently in Afghanistan. But it applies in particular to NATO’s relationship with the European Union, which, regardless of the fate of its draft constitution, will continue to be a major international actor.


Just a few weeks ago, NATO and the European Union decided to help the African Union to expand its peacekeeping mission in the troubled Darfur region in Sudan. Darfur is a good example of the kind of crisis which NATO and the EU must be able to deal with in the future – working pragmatically with each other, with the United Nations and with other international actors. For that kind of effective cooperation to become the norm rather than the exception, we must establish a true strategic partnership between our organisations – a transparent partnership that extends to all areas where we have common security interests, where we can complement each other, and reinforce each other’s efforts. I believe that, as a new, self-assured member of both NATO and the EU, Slovakia can do much to promote such a strategic partnership.


Finally, it is my conviction that we need to further strengthen the Alliance as an essential forum for transatlantic strategic and political consultation. As we face new and complex challenges to our security – terrorism, proliferation, “failed states”, it is imperative that we debate these issues in the NATO context. NATO’s work here in Europe is far from being done, but we are also reaching out to other parts of the world in dialogue and cooperation – Central Asia, the Caucasus, Northern Africa, the broader Middle East. And we must continue to adapt the ways and means in which we do our business to the changing circumstances.


It is vital that those challenges are discussed in NATO. That the Allies share views and shape consensus -- and that they are ready, if necessary, to take action together. All our capitals will maintain bilateral relationships. It is normal, and indeed desirable, that the European Union’s dialogue with Washington and Ottawa intensifies. But the transatlantic Allies need a structured, permanent forum to discuss the key security issues that they face together. NATO is not just an instrument for effective action, but also a forum for that kind of structured political debate. Slovakia can do much to preserve, and to strengthen, both these vital functions of the Alliance.


    Ladies and Gentlemen,


The world is changing, and NATO is changing with it.  The Alliance today is quite different from the organisation which Slovakia set out to join well over a decade ago.  We know, however, that Slovakia understands the need for NATO to continue to evolve, in order to remain an anchor of stability in a dramatically different security environment.  What is more, Slovakia not only understands the need for NATO to change -- it is also willing, and able, to play its part in that transformation.  That, I believe, is a strong vindication of all those who saw the future of this country in NATO, and who worked so very hard to make that vision a reality.  It is also why we are glad to have Slovakia on the NATO team today.

Thank you.


(1) Turkey recognises the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name


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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).