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"NATO: A Changing Alliance in a Changing World"

NATO - North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

12 May. 2011

"NATO: A Changing Alliance in a Changing World"

Speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington D.C.

Dr Hamilton,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear friends,

It’s a real privilege to speak to you here today at this prestigious venue. Let me start by thanking the School of Advanced International Studies for hosting me, and thanking you all for coming.

Every time I come to the United States I am struck by the warmth and generosity of the American people, and also by your country’s abiding commitment to NATO.

More than 60 years after its creation, NATO remains a vital instrument in the joint endeavour of Europe and America to promote freedom.

One key reason for NATO’s success is its ability to adapt to changing circumstances. For four decades, the Alliance prevented the Cold War from getting hot.

After the end of the Cold War, some felt that the Alliance lost its reason to exist. Instead, NATO turned into a real engine for positive change, reaching out to countries all over Europe, helping former foes to become friends, and opening its doors to new members.

When Yugoslavia broke apart in the 1990s, NATO rallied a unique, multinational effort that was instrumental in bringing peace to the Balkans.

And after “9/11”, NATO took the unprecedented decision to invoke Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. Europe hurried to America’s aid, demonstrating in the clearest possible terms that the attack on the United States was considered an attack on all the Allies.

When I learned about the successful operation against Osama bin Laden last week, I congratulated President Obama and the American people. Because that represented a significant step forward for the security of the 28 NATO Allies and of the world as a whole.

Bin Laden stood against all those values that NATO has defended for over six decades – freedom, democracy and humanity. And it is now obvious his evil ideology is bankrupt.

Today, NATO has become the unique transatlantic framework for North America and Europe to develop new, common answers to new, common challenges, such as international terrorism.

Our lesson from history is that, as the world changes, NATO needs to change too. It needs to be able to influence that changing environment in a positive direction. And it needs to continue fulfilling its fundamental purpose of safeguarding the security and shared values of its member nations.

While NATO’s past and present speak for themselves, the Alliance’s future is not yet written. At President Obama’s invitation, NATO leaders will gather next year, here in the United States for our next Summit meeting. And at that meeting, we will begin to write the next chapter in NATO’s evolution and transformation.

It is too early to predict the agenda for the Summit. But I do believe it is possible to identify some of the key factors that will shape that agenda. And they can be listed under three broad headings: commitments, capabilities, and connectivity.

First - commitments.

As I stand here, nearly 150,000 brave men and women are committed to NATO-led operations on three continents. Including about one hundred thousand Americans.

In Asia, we are steadily bringing security to Afghanistan, and we are training national security forces in Iraq.

In Africa, we are protecting the civilians of Libya from the attacks of the Qadhafi regime, and we are helping to counter piracy off the coast of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden.

And in Europe, we continue to keep the peace in Kosovo, as well as provide maritime counter-terrorist patrols in the Mediterranean Sea.

This wide range of commitments plays a vital role in the international community’s efforts to preserve peace and strengthen security. And it demonstrates that the Alliance is not only responding to change. It is shaping change.

Second - capabilities.

Technology is changing rapidly. And NATO’s capabilities need to keep pace.

Our Libya mission has reinforced the need for the Alliance to have available the full range of military capabilities, including those at the technological edge.

Certain aspects of this operation simply could not have been conducted without some of the highly advanced military capabilities of the United States: drones, surveillance equipment, and precision weapons.

One of my concerns is that European Allies risk falling behind the pace of technological change because of their low level of defence spending.

This has to be addressed. But when defence budgets are tight, it is not easy.

If we acknowledge that there is no more money available right now – then we need to change the way we spend our money. We need to look for new ways to bridge this gap.

Many nations are unable to provide individually some of the high-tech equipment we need. But we don’t actually need each and every Ally to have the full range of equipment.

What we do need is this: to have the right equipment within NATO; to enable each Ally to play its part; and to bring it all together with strong integrated command and control capabilities.

That’s why I am promoting the idea of “Smart Defence” as part of the answer. Nations building greater security -- not with more resources, but with more coordination and more coherence.

This can encourage nations to change their approach from a purely national one to one that favours multinational solutions. The key is for NATO to help nations to develop, acquire, and maintain capabilities together that they can’t afford alone.

I also have to say that if the Europeans are to do more, then they will require help from the United States – in particular in improving access to technology, and research and development.

All this would help the Alliance to have the right capabilities. To keep up with the fast pace of technological change. And to share the burden of developing new capabilities for NATO.

Finally - connectivity.

Terrorism, proliferation, piracy, cyber attacks – these new challenges all demonstrate how our security environment is changing.

They call for a changed approach to security. A cooperative approach. A connected approach.

These new security challenges are faced by many other nations that are not part of NATO.

To meet them, we need to connect with other nations and international organisations.

NATO already provides a tried and tested framework for partner nations to make their own military contributions to international efforts. Kosovo, Afghanistan, and now Libya are clear examples. And the Alliance is also increasingly becoming the forum where nations come to discuss new threats and challenges.

Over the coming weeks, for example, NATO nations will meet with a wide range of partners to discuss issues such as cyber defence, and piracy.

Another major issue that we are already discussing in detail with Russia is missile defence cooperation.

We agreed at the Lisbon Summit that NATO will defend our European territory and populations against ballistic missile attack. This will not change. But we also want to cooperate with Russia.

What NATO has in mind is cooperation between two independent missile defence systems. Together, there may be a solution where European NATO territory and populations are protected, and people and territories in Russia too.

If we achieve this, it will be a tangible demonstration that NATO and Russia can build security together, rather than against each other.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For over 60 years, NATO’s success has been founded on common values, common interests, and common approaches. But also on cohesion and commitment. We have learned time and again that North America and Europe are stronger together, but weaker apart.

Your school’s founding father, Paul Nitze, once wisely stated that “One of the most dangerous forms of human error is forgetting what one is trying to achieve”.

NATO is very clear on what we must achieve - through our commitments, our capabilities, and our connectivity, the Alliance must continue to meet the challenge of change. With America and Europe working together, and with your help and support, I am confident that it will be successful.

Thank you.

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