NATO’s speech at the Royal United Services Institute

Your Royal Highness [Duke of Kent],
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to have the opportunity to address the Royal United Services Institute on the occasion of the «NATO at Fifty» Conference. RUSI has been at the forefront in analysing defence and security issues since 1831, the year it was founded by the Duke of Wellington. This year’s Conference extends that long and distinguished tradition. The UK has been a firm supporter of NATO from the very start. It is fitting, therefore, that our keynote 50th anniversary conference should be held here at RUSI in your beautiful capital city.

The subject I would like to address is an ambitious one: «The New Security Agenda». As NATO celebrates its 50th anniversary, our new Agenda is both complex and challenging.

The old security agenda, over NATO’s first 40 years, was based on a relatively simple strategic imperative: territorial defence. It was a passive, reactive agenda, imposed by the dictates of the Cold War. We are now, thankfully, rid of this straitjacket. The end of ideological confrontation in Europe changed the security landscape. And with this change, we can shape the security agenda, not be driven by it. We can lift our sights higher.

The real security agenda faced by this continent is to successfully manage the three major processes of transformation: the transformation of Europe, the transformation of Russia, and the transformation of the transatlantic link. If these processes move in the right direction, they will give us the political, economic and military tools to deal with any conceivable challenge, from regional conflicts to proliferation.

By contrast, if one of these processes fails, our concept of a comprehensive Euro-Atlantic security architecture will be compromised. Our approach to the security challenges of the future would be more likely to be marked by ad-hockery and inconsistency. We would risk being victims of the agenda; we would not be able to set it.

Clearly, the successful management of these processes requires participation by far more players than NATO alone. Indeed, in recent years all major organisations have become engaged. Security should now be seen in its broadest sense, no longer the exclusive purview of any one institution. The European Union is a case in point. Its enlargement process, its special programmes for Russia and its growing Mediterranean dimension all testify to its broader role today. In a similar vein, the OSCE has broadened its role: defusing minority problems across Europe, organising free elections in Bosnia or, most recently, with on-the-ground verifiers in Kosovo.

But NATO remains special. This Alliance offers a unique combination no other institution can match: trustful political consultation, undisputed military competence, and a strong transatlantic dimension. This unique combination makes NATO a major player in re-shaping security. NATO is helping Europe grow together. NATO is helping to draw Russia closer to Europe. And NATO is at the forefront in developing a new transatlantic relationship. NATO’s role is not only to help manage these transitions individually – it is also bringing them together in a coherent way.

In short, the creation of new relations between an integrating and widening Europe, a participating Russia, and an engaged North America is what NATO’s post-Cold War agenda is all about. And the Washington Summit next month is a key link in pushing this agenda boldly and strongly into the century ahead.

What do I mean by a widening Europe? I mean a continent in which each country has an opportunity to participate in forging a new cooperative security order. A continent in which opportunities for breaking down barriers far outnumber the points of separation. Europe is widening in the sense of new patterns of interaction: political, economic, social. And this brings stability and greater security.

NATO’s essential role in this endeavour is clear: to help bring about a new cooperative security order of which no country feels excluded. Today, more than two dozen nations are cooperating with us militarily in the Partnership for Peace, and politically in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. Their regular presence at the NATO table has become a distinct feature of the new Europe – a Europe where dividing lines are being replaced by ever closer political, economic and military links.

NATO’s cooperative approach has enabled us to forge links with countries of the most diverse backgrounds and security traditions. Even neutral countries such as Switzerland and Moldova have closely associated themselves with the cooperative agenda of the Partnership for Peace programme and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. They all have a stake in European security, and they all can make their contribution. Ukraine, a country of considerable geo-political importance, has its own distinct partnership with NATO. This young nation, too, has a stake in the evolution of this continent, just as we have a stake in the stability and well-being of Ukraine. The widening of Europe in terms of security cooperation and partnership is becoming a reality. And NATO is a major instrument in achieving it.

NATO’s enlargement adds another dimension to the widening and integrating of Europe’s security relationships. The accession of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland in three days’ time is perhaps the clearest demonstration of the fact that Europe is growing closer together. Extending NATO membership to these three democracies helps to stabilise a region that historically has been the staging ground for many of the disasters of this century. In doing so, it also signifies that, in this new Europe, geography is no longer destiny. And it provides a powerful incentive for other nations sharing the same ambitions and values to get their house in order.

Let me turn now to Russia. Russia has not yet found its own confident role in this new Europe. It still has to overcome many difficult challenges to find its right place. As Russia struggles with her transition, it will remain a country of many contradictions. In my view, however, neither blatant optimism nor blatant pessimism are categories by which one can judge Russia. I apply another, more meaningful, category: Russia’s potential. Russia has 150 million well-educated people, a wealth of natural resources, and a demonstrated capacity to contribute to European security. To bring out this potential – to help Russia to make a positive contribution to European security – is something the West can and must help.

NATO can be more than a bystander to Russian developments. It can engage Russia constructively – even if this may sometimes mean walking the extra mile – and even if this may sometimes mean registering differences of view on some subjects. NATO has clearly signaled that we take Russia seriously as a major actor in the Euro-Atlantic security order.

We sent such a signal by the NATO-Russia Founding Act. The Permanent Joint Council reinforced it. And we have translated vision into reality. We have opened entirely new venues of cooperation, ranging from preventing proliferation to joint approaches to crisis management. Such initiatives have closed a gap in the European security architecture. Even if consultations in the PJC will not always lead to common positions, they serve to minimise misunderstandings or conflicting signals in a crisis. That is why the NATO-Russia relationship remains a major investment in the future of this continent.

Neither the transition of Europe nor the constructive engagement of Russia would be possible without a strong transatlantic link. And this means the continuing engagement of the North American Allies.

The ties that bind North America to Europe still contribute to healthy intra-European relations. They also ensure that no country falls victim to the temptation of again pursuing its security interests at the expense of its neighbours. And let us not forget: the United States remains a unique crisis manager – from its role in German unification to its role in the Dayton Accords.

These are the reasons why a new European security architecture must always be a Euro-Atlantic architecture. However, if the transatlantic link is to function smoothly in the future, we must not assume that it will indefinitely be «business as usual». On both sides of the Atlantic, a new generation is taking over which no longer views NATO through the prism of personal experience or emotional attachment. On the North American side, they will look towards Europe and naturally ask: «what’s in it for us?»

Today, the answer is simple and clear. What North America gets in return for its involvement is reliable Allies; Allies who pull their weight when required; Allies who shoulder their fair share of the common burden; Allies who are viable Partners of North America in managing wider contingencies; Allies who play a security role commensurate with their economic strength.

We can answer this question in such an affirmative way because, on both sides of the Atlantic, we have made the right decisions. The United States has overcome its latent scepticism of a distinct security role for Europe. It has realised that a stronger Europe is the precondition for managing an ever-growing transatlantic agenda.

By the same token, Europe has understood that establishing such a stronger European role is not just about self-assertion. Rather, it is about making a genuine contribution to a new, more mature transatlantic partnership.

In my opinion, we have never before had a better basis for building such a new relationship. The UK has led the field into this. Your Strategic Defence Review can demonstrate that military reform is genuinely foreign policy-led, and not simply an excuse for cost-cutting. It has been an inspiration that others are following, and the success of the Strategic Defence Review can do much to reassure our North American Allies about Europe’s willingness to create efficient and flexible armed forces.

The development of a European personality in NATO decided in Berlin in 1996 and the recent Anglo-French initiative on European defence demonstrate the commitment amongst European Allies to move beyond the status quo. This year, with the EU Summit in Cologne following on NATO’s own Summit in Washington, there is a unique opportunity to demonstrate that a stronger European role in security and defence is more than just an idea.

NATO is ready for such a stronger European role. Our new command structure allows for European-led operations – but with the material support by the United States, if required. Building the ESDI in NATO also ensures that other strategic partners – Canada, Norway, Turkey, Iceland and soon the three new members – remain fully involved in the process, even if they are not full members of WEU or EU. In this way, Europe can make progress in deepening its integration, without being caught in a painful split between political ambitions and limited military means.

A Europe widening and deepening, a Russia evolving into a stable democracy, a transatlantic Partnership of equals – these are the three most important areas of change and transition. NATO is vital to all of them. And we can already see the results. We have instruments for crisis management that were not available to us just a few years ago.

Bosnia is the foremost example. Here, the strategic relationships we have been building have paid off. Without NATO’s military clout, no diplomatic breakthrough at Dayton. Without NATO’s Partnership mechanisms, no SFOR with 30 nations. Without a NATO-Russia relationship, no Russian participation in SFOR.

If Bosnia-Herzegovina today is slowly turning into a viable state, it is not least because NATO has been helping to rally the key players – Europe, America and Russia – behind a common strategy. And here I want to pay a heartfelt tribute to the day-to-day contributions made in Bosnia by the armed forces of so many nations here today.

Kosovo is different, and yet in many ways similar. Without NATO and PfP, we could not have provided assistance for states neighbouring Kosovo the way we did. Without NATO’s military clout, we could not have prevented the humanitarian disaster that threatened last autumn. And without our relationship with Russia, we would not have had the means to discuss with the Russians the rationale, as well as the concrete planning, behind the Alliance’s military preparations, thereby allaying many of their concerns.

Let me add one more word on the Balkans.

The international community can assist in many ways other than through implementation of a peace settlement in Kosovo. If we want to encourage a long-term peace in Kosovo and surrounding regions, we have to broaden our perspective. In my view, the start of the Kosovo Implementation Force should signal the start of a wider initiative to put all parts of the Balkans on the path towards regaining their rightful place in Europe – politically as well as economically. Without such a comprehensive approach we will never get beyond treating the symptoms only. We must do more than protect the peace. We need to tackle the root causes of these conflicts. We must create the conditions for reconstruction, the climate for reconciliation, and we must give strong incentives for progress. That is why the entire Euro-Atlantic community – its nations and institutions – must become engaged.

But it is not only engagement on our part. We need the engagement of a new generation of citizens and leaders in the re-building process in the troubled parts of the former Yugoslavia. We need the people of the region to take the responsibility into their own hands, to seize the opportunities that are open to them. With the first signs of such re-generation can come the first steps in a longer-term re-integration process. A re-integration back into the normalcy, the stability, the prosperity of mainstream Europe. And it can be done if the will – on their part and on our part – is there.

In short, what the Balkans need is a «Partnership for Prosperity».

I believe that such a Partnership for Prosperity is not only feasible; it is also in our long-term strategic interest. Its short-term cost will be far outweighed by its long-term benefits.

The Kosovo Implementation Force should also be the start of yet another new feature of how we manage security today: it should be the start of a stronger European role in NATO. The Kosovo peace implementation mission, should it materialise, will have a far greater European input, and will even be led by a European – a NATO first. This is the new way we do business in a NATO responsive to the needs of a dynamically-evolving transatlantic relationship. It demonstrates that we are serious about striking a new transatlantic bargain for the next century. Such a new bargain does not mean «less America». It simply means «more Europe».

The Washington Summit will be a reaffirmation of this logic. It will set the new security agenda. In addition to welcoming our three new members, we will unveil a new package of measures to help prepare aspiring members. A new, more flexible command structure will be finalised. New ideas for deepening our relations with Partner countries will be put forward. We will outline the way ahead on the European Security and Defence Identity, paving the way for the EU Summit in Cologne. We will launch an initiative to enhance NATO’s role in coping with the spread of weapons of mass destruction. And an initiative to enhance our military capabilities – for example, in terms of interoperability and sustainability – will help us maintain NATO’s military excellence.

All these new features will be embedded in a revised Strategic Concept. This document will confirm the Allies’ commitment to the core function of Alliance collective defence will and the indispensable transatlantic link. But it will also provide a synthesis of the Alliance’s many new political and structural innovations with its enduring tasks and principles. The Strategic Concept will take a fresh look at the risks and challenges facing the Atlantic community – today and into the next century. And NATO’s new roles in crisis management will find their rightful place in the Alliance’s strategy.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

NATO has become an invaluable instrument for shaping Euro-Atlantic security – a catalyst for a broader security order. At the age of 50, NATO has left the passive, reactive approach of the Cold War days firmly behind. Today, NATO is setting the security agenda in ways we could only dream of a decade ago. We make a major contribution to the widening and deepening of Europe. We are constructively engaging Russia. We are re-shaping the transatlantic relationship. We are ready to tackle the hard security questions ahead.

So it is true what they say: life begins at fifty!

Thank You.

Enviado por Enrique Ibañes