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One Foot in Europe and One in North America

One Foot in Europe and One in North America

Speech delivered by Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO Secretary General, at the 42nd Munich Conference on Security Policy. Munich, (Bavaria), February 4, 2006. Source: 2006 Munich Conference on Security Policy.

Dr. Angela Merkel, Federal Chancellor of Germany, and Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO Secretary General. Photo by Kai Mörk.

Dr.Angela Merkel and Jaap de Hoop Scheffer - Photo by Kai Mörk

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

I always participate in the Munich Security Conference because this is one of the best places to take the pulse of the transatlantic relationship. Today, I want to focus on a few key areas:

  • The broader and more intense political consultations at NATO on issues ranging from the Balkans and Afghanistan to Africa and the Middle East, and now also energy security
  • Our growing operational commitments, in particular expansion in Afghanistan but also new categories of missions, such as support for the AU in Darfur and a major humanitarian mission in Pakistan
  • Progress on transformation, to meet both old and new demands on the Alliance, including achieving full operational capability for the NRF, strengthening our access to strategic lift, and better funding mechanisms
  • The need to work more effectively with current partners and reach out to new ones, and in particular the importance of building a pragmatic, strategic partnership with the European Union. This is essential for both organizations
  • And bringing these various themes together at the NATO summit in Riga next November

(From left) US-Senator John McCain, Prof.Dr. Horst Teltschik, and Dr. Franz-Josef Jung, Federal Minister of Defense, Germany.

Photo by Kai Mörk

All of the above issues are of keen transatlantic interest. Of course, as NATO Secretary General, it's my job to have one foot in Europe and one in North America. This is not always a comfortable position, and, as you can imagine, I am very sensitive to continental drift! This year, I'm happy to say that the state of the transatlantic union is good. In fact, more than ever, NATO is in demand and NATO is delivering.

In the past few days, some of you might have had some doubts about NATO continuing to deliver in Afghanistan. I had no such doubts. This Alliance has made a long-term commitment to the Afghan people, and to the UN. We will meet those commitments, for as long as necessary. Because Afghanistan is making progress. It is a success. And we will reinforce that success.
Afghanistan is not just a success story. It also illustrates how far NATO's transformation has come - even if a lot remains to be done, and I will come to that in a moment.

NATO's operation in Afghanistan shows that the Alliance has already made huge changes to meet the security challenges of the 21st century. We have broadened our strategic horizon far beyond Europe. We have begun tackling terrorism as a main mission - indeed, in Afghanistan, we are engaging terrorism at the source. We are projecting and sustaining forces well beyond our traditional area of operations. We are working at the core of a team that includes the UN, the EU, the G-8 and non-NATO countries as well. And we are taking on tasks across the military spectrum, from soft to hard power.

That is the new, transforming NATO. But I say "transforming", rather that "transformed", because there is still unfinished business. We need to make more changes to the way NATO works, if this Alliance is to maximize its potential as the place where Europe and North America come together to project stability.

As you know, NATO will hold a summit in Riga this November. For NATO, summits are not regular events. When they happen, they are important transformational moments. Which is why I believe we need to work, in NATO, from now until Riga to make progress in a few key areas.

First: the NATO Response Force. The NRF is a critical military asset. We used it to deliver aid to Pakistan quickly after the earthquake, and we saw its potential. It also raises the standards of all NATO militaries - it is the high tide that floats all the NATO boats. We are going to test its operational capability this summer. I will push hard to ensure that we get it, and that by Riga, we can announce full operational capability.

The NRF deployment to Pakistan highlighted a second area where we need to make progress by Riga: funding. Now, I know that using the word "funding" is not the best way to make an audience prick up their ears. But modernizing the way we pay for things in NATO is critical, because it will make it easier to do what we need to do: project stability.

Right now, participation in the NRF is something like a reverse lottery: if your numbers come up, you actually lose money. If the NRF deploys while you happen to be in the rotation, you pay the full costs of the deployment of your forces. This can be a disincentive to countries to commit to participation in the NRF. And that is something that the alliance can't afford. That is why we need more solidarity in the way we pay for our operations. We need to share the costs more fairly. When Turkey had to ship some helicopters to Afghanistan, Luxembourg paid for their transport. That was solidarity. In the case of the NRF, I believe we should aim for the common funding of at least the initial deployment.

I think we also need to increase our collective capabilities. Let me give you an example: AWACS. In a few weeks, NATO AWACS will help protect the Olympic Games in Turin. This summer, NATO AWACS will patrol over the World Cup here in Germany. This model works. It puts a critical capability at the disposal of all allies, including the smaller ones; it allows everyone to share the costs; and it helps to keep our people safe.

I believe this is a good example of our potential if we do more together. A NATO Air-to-Ground Surveillance capability, for example, makes sense. Commonly operated strategic lift makes sense as well, because it is crystal clear that we need more lift at our disposal, including at times of crisis when leasing is not an easy option. And we need to make progress on joint logistics, because it is a waste of time and effort to have ten supply chains for ten national contingents in the same NATO operation. I think that by Riga, we should make progress on all these fronts.

I mentioned already that, in Afghanistan, NATO's partners are playing a critical role. I saw myself the Swedish C-130 parked on the tarmac in Kabul, alongside the Danish and UK aircraft. Interestingly, I noticed that the Swedish plane said "Royal Swedish Air Force", and the Danish one said "Royal Danish Air Force", but the UK Hercules simply said "Royal Air Force". I won't comment on what this might imply about UK self-image…

Afghanistan illustrates a new reality - in the new security environment, our Partners make a critical contribution to our shared objectives. That is why the links with our partner countries - from Austria to Finland and from Armenia to Kazakhstan - are a true strategic asset. We need to ensure that we have the closest possible partnership with those countries that can, and are willing to, help defend our shared values. To my mind, that means also building closer links with other likeminded nations beyond Europe - nations such as Australia, New Zealand, South Korea or Japan. NATO is not a global policeman, but we have increasingly global partnerships.

In Europe, NATO's partnership policy has been a major success. But for some nations, partnership is only a step towards the ultimate goal of NATO membership. The prospect of joining NATO has been a major incentive for many countries to tackle the challenge of reform. It has helped to foster stability and democracy. This logic of integration remains as valid as ever, especially in the Balkans. But it also means that when nations have performed, when they have done what NATO asked them to do, the Alliance cannot hold out on accession. When aspirant countries are ready, we must let them enter NATO's open door. I expect Riga to bring that message home - loud and clear.

One final point: transatlantic security dialogue. That was the theme of last year's meeting, and as I mentioned, we have definitely deepened our political discussions within NATO on issues of concern to all 26 Allies. Everyone can agree that this makes sense.

I believe that there are more issues that we should consider bringing to the NATO table. And one that leaps to mind is energy security. NATO's Strategic Concept includes the protection of vital supply lines as one area critical to the security of allies. Today, for reasons that are obvious - including the potential of terrorists targeting our energy supplies - it makes sense to me that the allies should discuss this issue.

But deeper transatlantic dialogue within NATO isn't enough. We also have to build a pragmatic, strategic partnership with the EU. Because I will say bluntly: we are not doing nearly enough.

It is obvious that NATO and the EU share common strategic interests. Look at Afghanistan, where both NATO and the EU are heavily committed. Look at Kosovo, where the same is true. Look at the Middle East, to which both NATO and the EU are reaching out. Look at defense procurement, which costs billions of Euros. 19 countries belong to both organizations. One would think that they would all insist on the highest degree of complementarity and cooperation. But we have not achieved this goal. To be sure, there are institutional, political and technical reasons with which we are all familiar. This means that we are working past each other. It means that we are duplicating each other's efforts. And that we are wasting taxpayers' money.

I want to see a strong and vibrant European Union. I want it to grow in partnership with NATO as a major security actor. This is in all of our interests. We have to put pragmatism above dogmatism. We must build a true strategic partnership between NATO and the EU. I will work hard to help make that happen as soon as possible.

Ladies and Gentlemen, today's security environment bears no resemblance to the Cold War - when deterrence took care of our security needs, and when our solidarity was never tested in operations. This era has gone for good. Today's challenges are very different. They require us to act - sometimes in faraway regions; where we know our soldiers' lives will be at risk; where the costs can be high; and where the engagements can seem long.

In this new world, solidarity is the key: political, military and financial solidarity. NATO has always embodied solidarity between Europe and North America. We are demonstrating it today, including in Afghanistan. I think we can do better - in the way we operate, in the way we pay for what we do, and in the way we work with the wider world. And I believe that the Riga Summit will prove it.

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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).