Woodrow Wilson International Center Forum on NATO Expansion and European
Russia's Recent Action in
Ukraine Has Reminded NATO of its Founding Purpose
Woodrow Wilson International Center
Forum on NATO Expansion and European Security. As Delivered by Secretary of
Defense Chuck Hagel, Washington, D.C., Friday, May 02, 2014.
Source : U.S. Department of Defense.
Jane, thank you. I'm always overwhelmed in your company, but
now you've outdone yourself with a special Nebraska Cornhusker scarf. And by the
way, the Cornhuskers will have a better season this year. Thank you. Thank you,
Jane. And thanks to the Wilson Center for what you continue to do for our
country and for world affairs. You bring thoughtful analysis and leadership to
these tough issues. The world is complicated, as we all know. It's not getting
any less complicated, nor is it getting any less dangerous. So your continued
contributions and leadership, as well as this institution, are very valuable and
important parts to all of our efforts - global efforts to find peaceful, wise
resolutions to these difficult problems.
To my friends here who were on the panel, always good to see
you. Thanks for your continued contributions, as well. And for those here who
have been in this business of analysis and thinking and writing for many, many
years, thank you, and now is no time to stop. We're going to need everybody more
than maybe ever in our lifetimes. As the world expands, opportunities expand,
but threats, challenges expand. Technology, unprecedented change all over the
world. But it is our time, and we must not fail the world.
As Jane noted, I have known Jane many years. We worked
together in the Congress, traveled together, always admiring her judgment and
ability and sharp analysis of issues. And in particular, I have always admired
and respected and particularly appreciated her directness. Those of you who know
Jane well - and most of you do - know that she's very clear in what she believes
and says it very plainly, and that isn't altogether bad. And I think if there
was ever a time for plain talk in the world today - respectful, respectful of
each other and sovereignty and our interests all over the world, but we have to
be clear with each other. And Jane has done that, and I think we all appreciate
that in our leader.
So, Jane, thank you, and thank you for giving me an
opportunity to talk about this issue. And I know what your theme is this morning.
And it's particularly timely, as well as valuable, so thank you.
The challenges facing NATO today remind us of the enduring
need for this historic alliance and what we must do to strengthen it. Sixty-five
years ago, after a long debate about America's role in the postwar world, eleven
envoys gathered in the Oval Office at the White House to witness President
Truman formally accepting and ratifying the North Atlantic Treaty.
Doing so, President Truman broke with prominent voices, as
has been noted here this morning, including those prestigious voices [like]
George Kennan[s]. Those voices called for America, in Kennan's words, to relieve
“ourselves gradually of the basic responsibility for the security of Western
Instead, General Eisenhower arrived in Paris in 1951 as the
Supreme Allied Commander Europe. By 1953, 11 U.S. Air Force wings, 5 Army
Divisions, and 50 Navy warships had followed. Militaries of NATO nations began
working together. They began working together to integrate North American and
European strategy, plans and forces.
America did not make commitments abroad “in search of
monsters to destroy.” Instead, President Truman joined the North Atlantic Treaty
because he said he was convinced that NATO would serve as “a shield against
aggression and the fear of aggression” and thereby let us get on with the “real
business of government and society” at home. Truman joined the North Atlantic
Treaty, because it was, as he put it, “a simple document” that, “if it had
existed in 1914 and in 1939 would have prevented…two world wars.” America was
committed to NATO because NATO would help protect vital American interests by
reinforcing the unity of transatlantic security. NATO would ultimately protect
security and prosperity here at home…a truth that I believe endures to this day.
On the centennial of the start of World War I, and weeks
before the 70th anniversary of allied landings at Normandy, Russia's recent
action in Ukraine has reminded NATO of its founding purpose. It has presented a
clarifying moment for the transatlantic alliance. NATO members must demonstrate
that they are as committed to this alliance as its founding members were who
built it 65 years ago. They must reaffirm the security guarantees at the heart
of the alliance. They must reinvigorate the unrivaled joint planning, exercises,
and capabilities that are its lifeblood. And they must reaffirm, that from the
Mediterranean to the Baltics, Allies are Allies. Our commitment to the security
of every Ally is resolute.
This moment comes as NATO ends its combat mission in
Afghanistan later this year, the longest, most complex operation in its history,
and one that has strengthened the capability and the cohesion of the alliance.
It also comes as we prepare for a NATO summit this fall in Wales, which will be
an opportunity to re-examine how NATO militaries are trained, equipped, and
structured to meet new and enduring security challenges.
After more than a decade focused on counterinsurgency and
stability operations, NATO must balance a new renewed emphasis on territorial
defense with its unique expeditionary capabilities, because, as we have seen,
threats to the alliance neither start nor stop at Europe's doorstep…emerging
threats and technologies mean that fewer and fewer places are truly “out-of-area.”
Balancing a full range of missions will require NATO to have a full range of
forces, from high-end systems for deterrence and power projection to special
operations and rapid response capabilities. Allied forces must also be ready,
deployable, and capable of ensuring our collective security. I said at NATO's
Defense Ministerial meeting earlier this year that we must focus not only on how
much we spend, but also on how we spend, ensuring we invest in the right
interoperable capabilities for all NATO missions. This will require the United
States to continue prioritizing capabilities that can operate across the
spectrum of conflict against the most sophisticated adversaries. And it will
also require NATO nations - NATO nations - to prioritize similar investments in
their own militaries.
Since the end of the Cold War, America's military spending
has become increasingly disproportionate within the alliance. Today, America's
GDP is smaller than the combined GDPs of our 27 NATO Allies. But America's
defense spending is three times our Allies' combined defense spending. Over
time, this lopsided burden threatens NATO's integrity, cohesion, and capability,
and ultimately both European and transatlantic security.
Many of NATO's smaller members have pledged to increase their
defense investment, and earlier this week at the Pentagon, I thanked Estonia's
Defense Minister for hisnation's renewed commitment and investment in NATO. But
the alliance cannot afford for Europe's larger economies and most militarily
capable allies not to do the same, particularly as transatlantic economies grow
stronger. We must see renewed financial commitments from all NATO members.
Russia's actions in Ukraine have made NATO's value abundantly clear, and I know
from my frequent conversations with NATO defense ministers that they do not need
any convincing on this point. Talking amongst ourselves is no longer good enough.
Having participated in the NATO defense ministerials over the last year-and-
a-half and having met with all of my NATO counterparts, I've come away
recognizing that the challenge is building support -- the real challenge, real
challenge is building support for defense investment across our governments, not
just in our defense ministries. Defense investment must be discussed in the
broader context of member nations' overall fiscal challenges and priorities.
Today, I am therefore calling for the inclusion of finance ministers or senior
budget officials at a NATO ministerial focused on defense investment. This would
allow them to receive detailed briefings from alliance military leaders on the
challenges we all face. Leaders across our governments must understand that the
consequences of current trends in reduced defense spending and help will break
up the fiscal impasse.
In meeting its global security commitments, the United States
must have strong, committed, and capable allies. This year's Quadrennial Defense
Review makes this very clear. Going forward, the Department of Defense will not
only seek, but increasingly rely on closer integration and collaboration with
our allies—and in ways that will influence U.S. strategic planning and future
For decades, from the early days of the Cold War, American
Defense Secretaries have called on European allies to ramp up their defense
investment. And in recent years, one of the biggest obstacles to alliance
investment has been a sense that the end of the Cold War ushered in the “end of
history” – an end to insecurity, at least in Europe - an the end [of] aggression
by nation-states. But Russia's action in Ukraine shatter that myth and usher in
bracing new realities. Even a united and deeply interconnected Europe still
lives in a dangerous world. While we must continue to build a more peaceful and
prosperous global order…there is no post-modern refuge immune to the threat of
military force, and we cannot take for granted, even in Europe, that peace is
underwritten by the credible deterrent of military power.
In the short term, the transatlantic alliance has responded
to Russian actions with continued resolve. But over the long term, we should
expect Russia to test our alliance's purpose, stamina, and commitment. Future
generations will note whether at this moment - at this moment of challenge - we
summoned the will to invest in our alliance. We must not squander this
opportunity or shrink from this challenge. We will be judged harshly by history
and by future generations if we do.
NATO should also find creative ways to [help] nations around
the world - to help them adapt to collective security, to rapidly evolving
global strategic landscapes. Collective security is not only the anchor of the
transatlantic alliance; it is also a model for emerging security institutions
around the world, from Africa to the Persian Gulf to Southeast Asia. I say this
having just convened a forum of ASEAN defense ministers last month and having
called for a Gulf Cooperation Council defense ministerial this year.
These institutions bring all of our peoples, all of our
interests, all of our economies closer together - serving as anchors for
stability, security, and prosperity. Strengthening these regional security
institutions must be a centerpiece of America's defense policy as we continue
investing in NATO. As these institutions develop their own unique security
arrangements, they stand to benefit by learning from NATO's unmatched
interoperability and command-and-control systems.
There can be no transatlantic prosperity absent security, but
we must also keep in mind that investing in our alliance and our collective
security means more than just investing in our militaries alone.
It means the United States and Europe must partner together
over the long term to bolster Europe's energy security and blunt Russia's
coercive energy policies. By the end of the decade, Europe is positioned to
reduce its natural gas imports from Russia by more than 25%. And the U.S.
Department of Energy has conditionally approved export permits for American
Liquefied Natural Gas that add up to more than half of Europe's gas imports from
Russia. It means deepening our economic ties through new trade initiatives, like
the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. And it means continuing to
exercise global leadership in defense of shared values, like human rights and
the rule of law.
Let me conclude by reflecting on the historic decision 20
years ago to move toward NATO enlargement, which I know, as Jane has noted, is a
focus of this Congress. Then, as now, some argued that NATO enlargement invited
Russian aggression. Critics called it a “tragic mistake” and an “irresponsible
bluff.” Some still do.
But the historical record now speaks clearly for itself, and
it makes clear that NATO has sought partnership, not conflict, with Russia, and
that enlargement has contributed to stability and security.
No one wanted to replace Europe's Cold War dividing line with
a new one, so America and its allies made a good-faith effort to convince Russia
that our security interests were converging. President Clinton urged that, in
his words “the measure of Russia's greatness would be…whether Russia, the big
neighbor, can be the good neighbor.” Despite the reservations of many aspiring
new members, NATO established the Partnership for Peace and negotiated the
NATO-Russia [Founding Act]. Some U.S. government officials went so far as to say
that Russia might one day even join the alliance.
But even as we pursued cooperation with Russia, we were never
blind to the risks. Strobe Talbott, former Deputy Secretary of State, warned in
1995 that, in his words, “among the contingencies for which NATO must be
prepared is that Russia will abandon democracy and return to the threatening
patterns of international behavior that have sometimes characterized its history,
particularly during the Soviet period.” And today, NATO must stand ready to
visit the basic principles underlying its relationship with Russia.
NATO enlargement did not - did not invite Russian aggression.
Instead, it affirmed the independence and democratic identity of new members. It
did not foment crisis then or now. Instead, it settled old disputes and advanced
regional stability. It promoted freedom and free markets, and it advanced the
cause of peace. That is why NATO still holds the door open for aspiring members
and why it must maintain partnerships with nations around the world.
Consider the alternative: a world without NATO enlargement
and the assurances of collective security it provided. That world would have
risked the enormous political and economic progress made within and between
aspiring members. It would have risked a precarious European security
environment in which today's central and eastern European allies would be torn
between Europe and Russia. It would have risked insecurity reverberating deep
into the heart of Western Europe. And, ultimately, it would have risked a Europe
more fractured and less free. Thanks to American leadership, and thanks to some
of the distinguished leaders here today, that you'll hear from this morning -
that is not the world we live in. Yes, the world's dangerous. Yes, the world's
imperfect. Yes, we have challenges. But we must reflect on what we have done as
we prepare and build platforms and institutions to take on these new threats of
the early 21st century.
In 1997, I said on the Senate floor that “America, Europe,
and Russia could all benefit if the nations of Central and Eastern Europe are
anchored in the security NATO can offer.”
Today, the transatlantic alliance anchors global security. It
offers a powerful antidote to the “aggression and fear of aggression” that
President Truman warned against in 1949. It has spread the rule of law, freedom,
stability, and prosperity. And it will endure well into [this] century and the
next century, but only if nations on both sides of the Atlantic seize this
Two years and 19 days after General Eisenhower arrived in
Paris as the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, he was inaugurated as the 34th
President of the United States.
President Eisenhower was as war-weary as the American public
and people all over the world. He had written to his wife, Mamie, in his words,
that he “constantly wondered how ‘civilization’ can stand war at all.” He would
lie awake at night, smoking cigarettes, and he acknowledged privately that there
was “not one part of his body that did not pain him.” But in his first formal
address as President, Ike insisted that America had to remain engaged in the
world. He said “No nation's security and well-being can be lastingly achieved in
isolation, but only in effective cooperation with fellow nations.” And in 1957,
President Eisenhower returned to Paris, where - in his address to the first NATO
summit of heads of state - he connected America's transatlantic commitments to
the “vitality of our factories and mills and shipping, of our trading centers,
our farms, our little businesses,” and to our rights at home, our rights to
“produce freely, trade freely, travel freely, think freely, and pray freely.”
Those who doubt the value of America's commitments abroad
should recall that wisdom…because the unprecedented peace and prosperity we
enjoy today was hard-won, and we must remember - it is always perishable. As Ike
liked to say, “It takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice by a lot of people to
bring about the inevitable.”
Without deep engagement in the world, America would face more
conflict, not less - and on the terms of our adversaries, not on our own terms.
That is why America's commitment to its allies - in Europe and around the world
- is not a burden … it's not a luxury. But it is a necessity. And it must be