SPEECH BY THE SECRETARY GENERAL AT INAUGURAL CONFERENCE OF THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL OF THE UNITED KINGDOM LONDON, 26 NOVEMBER 1993
Ladies and gentlemen,
Just a few years ago, we entertained the vision of a Europe “whole and free”, in which relations between peoples would be based not on ideology or military might but on tolerance and common democratic values. Now a gap has emerged between that vision of a new peaceful order in Europe and our willingness to pay the price to bring it about. This gap produces instability and undermines the credibility of Western institutions that have helped to inspire change. Today, four years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it is not euphoria but increasing disorder and a crisis of confidence which dominate our European agenda.
Let us be honest. The international community has failed to deal effectively with the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, and this failure has affected all international institutions. Moreover, Somalia reminds us of how difficult it is to strike the right balance between the understandable impulse to intervene and the difficulties of implementation.
Does this mean that we should abandon our objective of building a new international order? Shall we just leave the world to the forces of disorder and limit ourselves to safeguarding our own national security, or at most, to containing the crisis spots so as to prevent them from spreading?
My answer is clearly no. We cannot live in security surrounded by chaos. I do not believe that we should succumb to pessimism. We must come to grips with the changed security environment. We have to realise that the end of the Cold War has spelled the end neither of history, nor of forward-looking security policy. Security still comes at a price, and we must pay it.
We enjoy a tremendous advantage over previous generations – namely, a structure of international institutions and an ingrained pattern of international cooperation which can enable us to build a better and more peaceful order in the era to come – if we use this advantage properly. That remains our challenge – the main challenge of our times.
We cannot meet this challenge without NATO; to master major security challenges you need NATO. To provide stability in a world that has become more unstable you need NATO. To prevent, manage and resolve major crises and conflicts in the wider Europe you need NATO. To prevent Europe from sliding back into renationalisation and fragmentation you need NATO. To keep transatlantic relations working smoothly and effectively you need NATO. To face the new kinds of risks emerging from proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, from mass migration and from extremism you need NATO.
So this Alliance is not sustained merely by nostalgic memories or by purely philosophical reflections on common values and destinies. It survives, indeed prospers, because it serves the concrete requirements of its member nations in North America and Europe.
I am aware, however, that a different view has been expressed by some, to whom the international community’s failure to prevent or reverse the conflict in ex-Yugoslavia is a demonstration of NATO’s irrelevance today.
I reject this argument. As much as I am personally disappointed with the way this crisis has been handled, I think we have to recognize that the international community was unprepared for the different security environment with which we would be confronted in the post-Cold War era, just as the West was initially unprepared for the type of challenge Soviet power would confront us with in the years immediately following World War II. The argument that we should disband NATO because of Yugoslavia is masochistic in the extreme; it is as if we were to banish doctors for the persistence of illness, or abolish police for the persistence of crime. What we need to do, obviously, is to draw the lessons of Yugoslavia so that there will be no more Yugoslavias.
It goes without saying that one lesson is that NATO must be used differently, and indeed that NATO itself must continue to adapt to a wholly different set of challenges from those we faced during the Cold War. That is why we are holding the NATO Summit in January. So today I want to address two questions:
– Why NATO?
– What kind of NATO do we need for this new era?
I. Why NATO
First, in a world full of crises and conflicts where history moves fast and is full of surprises NATO still serves its main strategic purpose: to maintain the common defence and security of its member countries. Today it does so with fewer troops and at lower cost. NATO serves as the insurance policy against the remaining risks and new dangers. Once dissolved an effective Alliance could not be recreated overnight.
Second, the transatlantic relationship is the most stable and valuable geopolitical asset on the globe today, bringing together the world’s two largest trading zones, and the two regions with the greatest global outreach and sense of global responsibilities. How could we seriously hope to achieve a more stable world without a strategic alliance of these two major power centres? Where else but in NATO could they coordinate their policies and pool their capabilities to deal with major security challenges, as was done so successfully in the Gulf War? Moreover, the countries of Central and Eastern Europe already rely upon the stabilising influence which the Alliance exerts around its periphery. The disintegration of NATO would increase the risk of conflict in Europe dramatically.
Third, one of the greatest achievements of the Atlantic Alliance has been to put an end to the bad habits of European power politics. There was simply no longer any need for secret pacts and cordial, or not so cordial, ententes. The American presence provided for a stable balance between former rivals and enemies. It even made possible the realisation of German unification without a major crisis in West European politics. By contrast the dissolution of NATO or the disengagement of the United States from Europe could and would undermine the European integration process. This would be damaging not only for Western Europe and the United States, but would also gravely affect the political and economic transition of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe which are urgently looking for links to the political, economic and security institutions of the West.
Fourth, NATO is the only organization that possesses the right package of political-military tools for effective crisis management. It provides the bedrock of “hard” security on which any new security order must be based. Only NATO has the means to turn political declarations into coherent action, a fact which the United Nations, after decades of viewing us with suspicion, has recognized in calling upon NATO to perform a range of peacekeeping functions in the former Yugoslavia. Which other instrument could you turn to in a crisis situation, assuming the political will was there to act? Which other institution could offer the integrated structure and the political/military consultation mechanism?
The Yugoslav crisis demonstrates not NATO’s irrelevance but its vitality and its potential. For the first time in our history we are both acting out of area and ready, if it is judged necessary to conduct air strikes, for actual combat operations. NATO has offered its support to the United Nations and it has done everything the UN has asked; and the Alliance has done so efficiently. We are enforcing the embargo at sea and the no-fly zone in the air. We have supplied UNPROFOR with command and control equipment and we have coordinated our military planning with the United Nations. We have also offered the United Nations our protective air power in case of attack against UNPROFOR and we are prepared to use air strikes, if necessary, to relieve strangulation of Sarajevo and other areas. All of these tasks are being performed with the professionalism and dedication you expect from this Alliance.
II. The Way Ahead: A New NATO for a New Era
So what is the way ahead for NATO? Contrary to what some have argued, NATO has not stood still since the end of the Cold War. This Alliance has changed more than any other international institution in the last three years, and remains a state-of-the-art model. We have had to accept two new missions to meet the demands of a vastly changed security environment: (a) projection of stability to the East and; (b) crisis management. We have adopted a new strategy and force posture. We have started to strengthen our European pillar. Most importantly, we have established close relations with our former adversaries by creating the North Atlantic Cooperation Council, and we have started participating in crisis management beyond our borders. So the slogan “out of area or out of business” is obviously out of date. We are acting out of area and we are very much in business.
Still, we need to continue to adapt the Alliance to play its role in stabilising Europe. Let me list five main areas which will be at the top of the Summit’s agenda.
The first and most important area where change must come is in further developing our ability to project stability to the East. Security is the oxygen of democracy; if we want our new democratic partners in the East to survive and to flourish, then we must seek to give concrete meaning to our 1991 Declaration in Rome that “our own security is inseparably linked to that of all the other States of Europe”.
I sense a growing consensus that, in principle, the Alliance should open up to new members. Even if there are no immediate plans to enlarge NATO, giving such a perspective would increase the stability of the whole of Europe, particularly if we are also willing to enhance fundamentally our security relationship with Russia. The same holds true for Ukraine and other cooperation partners. Nobody will be isolated. We intend to build bridges and not barriers.
But while incorporating new members is a long-term process, we are also studying new ideas which can be implemented already in the short term. I would like to mention, in particular, the proposal made by the United States for a “Partnership for Peace”.
The “Partnership for Peace” is designed to intensify the process of cooperation and give it a new dimension. Let me first clarify that I do not consider it to be an alternative to eventual membership of Central and Eastern European Countries to NATO. The “Partnership for Peace” will be open to all cooperation partners and other states in Europe. The core idea of this initiative is that interested States will sign bilateral cooperation agreements with NATO. The extent of cooperation would be largely up to the partner countries themselves, depending on their individual requirements. This would lead to a flexible network of cooperative links within Europe and across the Atlantic. The goal is to make our partners more capable of interacting with NATO member states in a broad range of multinational missions such as peacekeeping and crisis management. While “Partnership for Peace” is a proposal that is still under discussion within our Alliance, the reactions so far have been favourable and I have no doubt that it could lead the way towards an ever closer relationship between NATO Allies and our cooperation partners.
The second major Summit issue, is how to re-balance the Alliance so that Europe assumes a greater share of responsibility for security in Europe and beyond. Let me state very clearly from the outset that I regard a greater European role not as a threat but as a precondition of NATO’s longer-term vitality. The WEU has an essential role to play in this regard, and I regard it as one of NATO’s accomplishments that we have established a very close working relationship between our organisations. For example, we are now running an efficient joint naval operation in the Adriatic. Our objective is to coordinate our planning so that forces assigned to NATO can operate under WEU authority in those crises that affect first and foremost European interests.
We now have to move to practical, operationally sound arrangements in this respect. For example, we are currently looking at the concept of Combined Joint Task Forces for peacekeeping and other contingency operations. Such a concept would earmark resources within the integrated military structure for non-Article V missions in addition to their role in defence. In a crisis these resources could be used in conjunction with non-NATO contributions. This could provide the basis for “separable but not separate” forces which could accommodate both the needs of NATO and of an emerging European Security and Defence Identity.
The third issue the Summit must address, is the further development of the Alliance’s capabilities for crisis management, peacekeeping and peacemaking. I would maintain — notwithstanding the frustration about Yugoslavia — that NATO’s track record in this area has been as good, as I set out earlier, and that we have established a good cooperation with the UN. But I believe that we can and must achieve more. We should not succumb to false modesty. The UN is overextended and underfunded. If it wants our support, it must accept that we will push for clearer mandates and that we will insist that the chain of command and the rules of engagement must be agreed in a satisfactory manner as a precondition to any major Alliance involvement. I have repeatedly stated that if NATO acts on behalf of another organisation it does so as a partner and not as a sub-contractor. The closer our interface with the UN, the better the chance of obtaining a mandate suitable for effective implementation.
And this is not all. As we all agree that prevention is better than cure, we must find ways of making Allied assets more relevant not only to peacekeeping and peace enforcement, but to crisis prevention as well. In this respect I believe that we should look for ways of enhancing the Alliance’s contribution to the CSCE.
The fourth issue concerns the need to address the question of what “defence fundamentals” will be required in future. Otherwise, there is a risk of free-fall, structural disarmament which would rapidly deprive our member nations of meaningful military capabilities for many years to come. This would affect our traditional collective defence mission as well as our new tasks in peacekeeping. So the stabilisation of defence budgets agreed by NATO Defence Ministers in May is of major significance. In handling any crisis, what you have available very much determines what options you have: the fewer deployable forces, the fewer options for decision-makers, and the less credibility accorded subsequent actions.
The fifth issue is counter-proliferation. Already in 1991 the Alliance’s Strategic Concept stated that the proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction should be given special consideration. A viable solution to this increasingly serious problem requires a complementary approach of various elements, focusing first and foremost on traditional prevention mechanisms, such as export controls, but also including political disincentives and missile defence. We are currently examining ways to deal with this issue within the framework of the Alliance. I look to the Summit to draw up a road map for further action.
In closing, I want to underline that we need to make it clearer to our publics that NATO has been transformed, that it continues to change, and that it plays the leading role in Euro-Atlantic security. In particular, we must make it clear that security still comes at a price, whether the issues at stake are collective defence, peacekeeping or crisis prevention. We also have to make it clearer than before that the political strength of our Alliance as a cornerstone for European security derives directly from its perceived military value, and that to allow military atrophy means to deprive the Alliance of its political weight as an instrument to shape the peace.
The Atlantic Council of the United Kingdom has an important role to play in these efforts. NATO has been the most successful Alliance in history not only because its policies were the right ones, but also because they were consistently supported by the great majority of our public opinion. Indeed, if there is one lesson that we have learned from difficult times in the past, it is that the more we have explained those policies directly to the public, the more support we have gained.
The need to explain NATO’s roles and missions has become even more important now that we have adopted the new task of projecting stability into Central and Eastern Europe. Despite the NACC and numerous other contacts, there are still many misconceptions about our Alliance in some of our Cooperation Partner countries. So the Atlantic Council also has a vital role in building bridges between public opinion in our countries and in Central and Eastern Europe. Our aim must be to bring together the successor generations of future political leaders. We must foster among them a sense of common values, outlook and culture as well as the personal ties that make our vision of a Euro- Atlantic community a reality. These are our tasks. Let’s start tackling them today.