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NATO Speech                                                 7 March 2001

 Trans-Atlantic Relations - Overcoming New Challenges

 Speech by the Rt. Hon. Lord Robertson of Port Ellen,

Secretary General of NATO

hosted by

The American Enterprise Institute Washington, D.C. March 7, 2001

Sen. Thompson, Bill Schneider, Jeff Gedmin, ladies and gentlemen,

I am very grateful for those introductions, and pleased to be able to speak to you from the home of the United Stales Senate. I cannot think of a better place to discuss the challenges facing NATO and my thoughts on how we get through them in ways that actually leave NATO stronger and better for the effort. 

I am also very pleased to speak to you under the auspices of the American Enterprise Institute's New Atlantic Initiative. It is gratifying to have a dedicated, political and think-tank effort aimed at renewing American support for NATO.

Eight years ago, the Carnegie Endowment was the primary raiding ground for filling the ranks of the new Administration, and Carnegie itself was seen as the top think-tank with the right connections. Now the same is happening with AEI, and I am pleased to be among the first visitors to recognise that not only tide of the government, but also the tide of the think-tanks, is changing.

But I am here today not to talk about the tides of political survival in Washington, but instead the tides of fraying and renewal in NATO relations. It seems every few years we go through a period where the continued validity of trans-Atlantic ties are called into question with mutual recrimination from both sides. And then we realise that the differences we have are not as big as they seem, and that the ties that link Europe and North America are deeper and more fundamental that we often realise.

Just over ten years ago, there was a strong trans-Atlantic consensus that the principal threat to NATO was the USSR. If you were to ask the question today  "What is the principal threat to NATO?" - at least some Americans would say "ESDI" and some Europeans would say "NMD." But at least we continue to agree that the principal problem is an acronym. (There is a pattern here, because the other main challenges I am dealing with at the moment are the situations in the FRY and the FYROM ).

I raise these two issues - European defence and missile defence - because they are two of the major sources of the current furrowing of brows in trans-Atlantic security. Many American commentators continue to see ESDI as a latent threat to NATO. I think Mr. Gedmin's argument in the Senate here just one week ago was that ESDI is indeed a threat, hut since the Europeans won't really do anything anyway, it is less important than many of the other issues we face.  Not exactly a rousing endorsement.

Many Europeans, meanwhile, continue to fear the effects of the United States proceeding with deployment of a missile defence system.  But they feel that since such deployment is inevitable anyway, it is better to stop discussing whether it will happen and start discussing how.  Hardly a resounding call for dealing with missile threats.

In my view both of these negative attitudes, towards ESDI and missile defence, are wrong - wrong on the substance, and wrong on the prescriptions.

I want to begin with missile defence, but before I do, let me just recall the fundamentals that underlie trans-Atlantic relations. First and foremost, we share common values:  freedom, free markets, human rights, and the rule of law. Together, North America and Europe are stronger, and better able to promote our common values, than separately.

Two other principles are shared risk and shared burdens. A NATO that is not balanced, or where its members are not engaged equitably in addressing common security concerns, is at long-term risk. This is the fundamental logic of trans-Atlantic relations, and it still holds true. So these debates, as tough as they can be, are not about first principles. The first principles still hold.

For its first forty years, NATO's job in protecting and promoting our nations and our shared values was dominated by the need to defend against the Soviet Union. Today, the threats come from different quarters.

Clearly, the most immediate risk to peace in Europe today is in the Balkans, and that is why NATO is engaged in keeping the peace and pushing for political resolution of the conflicts there. And the KFOR and SFOR operations are good examples of burden sharing, where the U.S. accounts for only 15 percent of the troops on the ground.

The other new type of risk for NATO countries comes from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. And NATO itself recognises this. The requirement to address WMD threats is in the 1999 NATO Strategic Concept. NATO is already conducting its own theatre missile defence feasibility study, and some NATO nations have already joined the United States in plans to deploy theatre missile defence systems in southern Europe.

When I was in Moscow two weeks ago, Defence Minister Sergeyev handed me his plan for non-strategic missile defence in Europe, a plan that identifies missile threats and acknowledges that a military solution is part of the answer. The details are still sketchy, and part of the Russian impulse may be about driving wedges between Europe and America. But when I met with President Putin, he mentioned four states by name and actually used the term "rogue states." So I believe that not only the Allies, but also the Russians agreed that the missile challenge is real and must be addressed. The question is, "How?".

The concerns previously expressed in Europe about NMD have focused on "de-coupling" and strategic stability. A "national" missile defence for the U.S., say its critics, could risk decoupling US and European security. And a defence system, they claim, that tears up the ABM Treaty but offers no coherent concept of nuclear strategy to augment or replace mutual deterrence, is a great worry.

But the Bush Administration's approach, which aims to include Allies and fielded forces in the net - in other words, dropping the "N" from "NMD" - and to put missile defence into a larger strategy of nuclear and WMD security, has helped address these concerns. And the commitment to close consultations with the NATO Allies by both the Clinton and Bush Administrations has made clear that decisions on something that so fundamentally affects the security of the NATO Allies will not be made over their heads.

So I am very confident that instead of seeing a major trans-Atlantic row over "whether" America should deploy a "national" missile defence system, we are actually going to see some very serious consultations on "how" a broader missile defence system and strategy will come into effect. And this will reflect again our commitment to common values, common security, and shared risks and burdens.

Now concerning these shared burdens, the United States has long argued that Europe needs to produce more defence capability and take on more of a role in the common defence. While the KFOR and SFOR peacekeeping operations are good examples of burden-sharing, the Kosovo air campaign was conducted squarely on the back of the United States. Many people in Washington resent that fact, as do many Europeans.

Europe knows it can and must do more to take on a greater share of the defence effort. It can never replace NATO - and doesn't want to. But the imbalance we have between European and American capabilities at the moment is simply not sustainable.

So that is the logic behind ESDI. Europe is finally preparing to deliver what the United Slates has quite rightly said for so long that it wants - a Europe that can shoulder more of the burden and be a better partner of the United States. As long as the European Allies deliver on the capabilities promised, this will be good for NATO and good for Euro-Atlantic security overall. And trust me: if I did not believe this were true, I would not support ESDI, I would oppose it.

Now bear in mind that we currently are in a trap, which I call "NATO or nothing." For any security challenge in Europe larger than a forest fire, there are only two options - NATO, or nothing. There is no in-between. Yet we all know that the United States does not want to engage in every minor European security problem. And Americans argue, quite publicly sometimes, that the Europeans are rich enough that they ought to be able to take care of problems in their own backyard. And the Americans who say this are right. But if the option is NATO - including the United States - or nothing, the pressure is automatically there to press for the United States to become engaged.

So we have to create a new option. Building European military capabilities has to be matched with building the institutional role - distinct from, but closely linked to NATO - in order to create a European option for handling small-scale crises. That is why ESDI is focused on the so-called "Petersburg tasks": humanitarian operations, peacekeeping, and crisis management. For bigger jobs, NATO is still the only game in town.

Now, you will have heard that I said "closely linked to NATO." And that concept is truly indispensable. Nations only have one set of forces, so they cannot have separate and unrelated NATO and EU systems for defence planning. They cannot afford two multinational centers for planning multinational operations - one at NATO and one in the EU. And they must find the right ways to include and reassure NATO Allies that are not members of the EU that they can participate in the European defence efforts. These are the key challenges within ESDI, that we are currently working hard to address.

As with missile defence, the need to strengthen Europe's defence role was explicitly recognised in the 1999 NATO Strategic Concept. So as with ESDI, the question is not "whether" but "how" we take ESDI forward in a way that ensures it will leave a stronger and better balanced NATO. In 1999, the American Enterprise Institute published a paper on the development of European security capabilities. The paper was entitled, "How To Wreck NATO." Happily, NATO is still going strong. It is going strong because we have moved beyond debating whether change is necessary - in European security, or in missile defence. We are now managing that change, taking advantage of change, to strengthen our common security. That has been the mark of NATO's success throughout its history - and the main reason why the trans-Atlantic relationship will continue to remain as strong and as vibrant as it is today, and as it has been in the past.