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Never Allow Again Disagreement to Damage Transatlantic Relations

Never Allow Again Disagreement to Damage Transatlantic Relations

Speech delivered by Dr. Franz-Josef Jung , Member of the German Bundestag and Federal Minister of Defense of the Federal Republic of Germany, at the 42nd Munich Conference on Security Policy. Munich, (Bavaria), February 4, 2006. Source: 2006 Munich Conference on Security Policy.

(Left) Prod.Dr. Horst Teltschik and Dr. Franz-Josef Jung, Federal Minister of Defense, Germany. Photo by Antje Wildgrube.

Prod.Dr. Horst Teltschik and Dr. Franz-Josef Jung - Photo by Antje Wildgrube

    Mr. Teltschik, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Immediately after I took office as German Minister of Defense in November last year, my first official trips were to regions where Bundeswehr personnel are deployed on peace missions: KFOR in the Balkans, Enduring Freedom in Djibouti, ISAF in Kabul, and northern Pakistan, where NATO rendered assistance in the wake of a humanitarian disaster. As part of its humanitarian assistance operation, NATO transported about 3,500 tons of relief goods to the disaster area. What I saw from the helicopter as I was flying over the remote mountain valleys - people living in extremely austere conditions, having now fallen victim to the forces of nature - has left a lasting impression on me. NATO has meanwhile concluded its mission there, but the German Ministry of Defense continues to provide Bundeswehr helicopters for further relief operations.

The NATO Response Force was not predominantly designed to take over such operations as the one in Pakistan, yet it fulfilled its mission. This shows the strength of the Alliance. NATO itself was assigned its original tasks at different times and circumstances and is today just as indispensable as it was at the time of its foundation. The Alliance has seen manifold changes, and changes are still ongoing. Change is not an end in itself; the tasks are changing but the mission remains the same: the safeguarding of security, peace and freedom.

We have made good progress since the middle of the last century. The international community has become more closely knit, International Humanitarian Law has been further developed, and the United Nations has gained more strength. The longstanding dream of domesticating power through the rule of law, however, has remained.

Borders have lost their separating character, and security can no longer be defined in military terms alone. Terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, failing states - these are the scourges of our times. NATO has changed along with the changing nature of its operations and has gradually become a globally operating alliance. Afghanistan is a particularly impressive case in point. Thirty-seven nations are participating in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, and are thus assisting Afghanistan on its way towards democracy while preventing that country from reverting to fundamentalism and terrorism.

Shaping the changing Alliance together is not the task of defense ministers or heads of state and government alone, but rather a responsibility of the entire Atlantic community.

The majority of the present company consists of Europeans and North Americans. We know each other and we get on well with each other. This does of course not mean that we always fully agree on every issue. However, we must never again allow disagreement to go so far as to damage the transatlantic relations.

The old NATO as a purely defensive alliance is history. We Germans in particular are aware of how much we owe to the Atlantic Alliance. Recently, we made that very clear when we celebrated the Bundeswehr's 50th anniversary. We are standing on solid ground, looking towards the future. It is against this background that I want to restrict my remarks to three ideas regarding the role of the Alliance.

Firstly: If the Alliance wants to preserve its position as the first instance for consultation on security issues, it must become more political again, in other words, it must be used as a political instrument for shaping the security environment. Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty obliges us to consult together if we are threatened. This means that we must talk about all important security issues in the Alliance, too.
Let us take a look at the example of Iran: The Iranian nuclear program directly impacts on our security, because the repeated statements of the Iranian President have raised questions as to the solely peaceful utilization of this nuclear program. It is therefore appropriate that the UN Security Council is dealing with this matter. In the Alliance too, however, we must carry on a political discussion in this regard, because here we need a unanimous transatlantic stance as well.

As for energy supplies: In our interdependent world marked by globalization, an assured supply of energy is becoming increasingly relevant from a security policy point of view. This is something else we must discuss in the appropriate bodies. The Mediterranean Dialogue, which we will continue in Taormina, and the dialogue with the countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council are also well suited to this purpose.
We have yet to gradually develop the culture of a new dialogue in the field of security policy. The extent to which NATO will be able to fulfill its peace-making role in the future world order depends, after all, on such a dialogue. The shock of the transatlantic misunderstandings in 2002 and 2003 would produce some benefit if we realized that we must adopt a new culture of dialogue and dispute.

As to my second idea: We will overstretch NATO if we burden it with all the tasks of safeguarding peace and security. The attraction of NATO is highlighted by the fact that more and more states are aiming to become a member. One the other hand, NATO is not at all a kind of mini-UNO or OSCE. We need coordination and exchange of views with our non-American and non-European friends as well. We should, however, carefully avoid to create more and more institutional bodies. In the future, more tasks will have to be shared. In the spirit of the community of values that exists between North Americans and Europeans, the focus here must primarily be on the strategic partnership with the European Union. It is true that we are cooperating successfully in current operations, for instance EUFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that we have the Berlin-Plus Agreement. But this is by no means sufficient if we do not want the strategic partnership to degenerate into an empty phrase.
NATO and the EU must better coordinate the development of their capabilities, and we must adopt a jointly harmonized crisis management, as laid down in the Comprehensive Political Guidance. Berlin-Plus makes possible and calls for political consultations between these two organizations at an early stage; we must make a greater effort to put this into practice, that is to say, we must jointly determine objectives, parameters and who is to take action.

If it is agreed that NATO is going to take action, the military framework for this action is clear. Adjustments are then only necessary regarding the civilian instruments to be used. If on the other hand it is agreed that the EU is going to be the actor, it depends on the nature and scope of the task whether the operation is planned and conducted autonomously by the EU or whether one should consider the tried and tested recourse to NATO assets and capabilities, in particular to the NATO command structure.

Altogether, however, we must achieve a higher efficiency of the common bodies of the two organizations. It is vital to explore all options for cooperation and to do more than merely exchange information. Possible areas of cooperation range from intelligence sharing to coordinated force planning to joint training of the NATO Response Force and the EU Battlegroups. One of these possibilities is the right of either organization to speak before the bodies of the other, another is the further development of diplomatic capabilities and, where possible, the pooling of military capabilities, and to make an even greater effort to pursue transformation.

All in all, Europe must become a strong partner. The European Security Strategy provides a solid foundation for that. Thus we can present ourselves as a true partner, and turn the European Union into a tangible experience in these times where there is so much talk of Europe being in crisis.

As a regional organization, NATO can take action within the framework of the United Nations peacekeeping system in accordance with chapter VIII of the UN Charter; but the Alliance is more than just a regional organization. However, NATO must also be in the position to act autonomously in order to ward off threats to world peace on the basis of the UN Charter.

Thirdly: We must continue to ensure the transfer of stability. This is also part of the Alliance's political philosophy. We must take the concerns and fears of our partners seriously while orienting ourselves on the new situation as regards the future capabilities of the Alliance. NATO is an alliance of free democracies that share the same values. In future, too, it will remain open to further European countries which meet the requirements for membership.

NATO has made a significant contribution to setting the Balkan states on the path to peaceful and democratic development. In transferring stability to south-eastern Europe and the Caucasus region, which borders on Europe, the Alliance is facing a particularly demanding challenge, and needs Russia as a partner in coping with this challenge. Exactly because we want to extend the area of stability, we must proceed with caution.

The autumn NATO-summit in Riga must set the right signal in this respect. This, too, is part of the Alliance's role in the future system for safeguarding peace.

The political credibility of the transatlantic relations depends on the military capabilities: they must cover the entire "new" mission spectrum. The NATO Response Force is the political litmus test in matters of the mutual strategic solidarity of the Alliance partners and the catalyst of a politically motivated transformation. In this visible commitment lies the strategic-political significance of the NRF and this is why it must be successful. Contributions to the NATO Response Force therefore express the appreciation of burden-sharing and solidarity.

The transformation of the Alliance will only succeed if we broaden our concept of security and do not restrict the discussion to military aspects alone; to this end we must ensure that our forces have the best possible backing of society. This is the setting the Atlantic Alliance needs if it is to continue to secure peace in the future.

Linking two continents, NATO is the only trans-continental alliance, committed to the values and principles of the United Nations, a unique political and military instrument for safeguarding and restoring peace. It is up to us to use it accordingly. This is the best way to serve peace in the world.

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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).