Speech Given in Oslo, Norway by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer on Fresh Changes for a New NATO

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,

Let me first of all thank YATA, the Norwegian Atlantic Committee and the University of Oslo for the opportunity to speak to you today.

I entitled my remarks today “a new NATO”. I am aware, of course, that attaching the label “new” carries some risk. It evokes parallels to washing powder or soft drinks – things that are labelled “new” almost every year – and yet we all know that it is still the same old stuff.

As far as NATO is concerned, however, the term “new” is both legitimate and appropriate. Because for the past few years, NATO has indeed undergone a massive transformation – a transformation of its entire security outlook. This transformation – which is still ongoing — has five broad dimensions that I want to briefly set out for you today.

  • The first dimension has to do with the way we view security challenges today, and how we use NATO to address them.
  • The second relates to how we prepare ourselves militarily, how we need to change heavy metal armies into much more agile forces.
  • A third dimension is NATO’s evolving relationship with other major institutions, notably the European Union and the United Nations.
  • A fourth dimension is the need to look at nations and regions that used to be well beyond our radar screens.
  • And finally, I want to say a few words about the need to reinforce NATO’s role as a political forum, in addition to its role as a military instrument.

First, a word about security today. After the relatively static security environment of the Cold War, we now face a whole range of new and complex threats: a lethal breed of terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, failed states spreading instability, and criminal networks trafficking in people, drugs and weapons. We must be prepared to deal with those threats when and where they emerge, or they will escalate and land on our doorsteps. A reactive approach may have been adequate during the Cold War. Today, it is simply no longer good enough.

NATO has learned this lesson. In the Mediterranean, NATO ships are patrolling to prevent terrorists or weapons of mass destruction from entering our countries through that vital sea lane. The Alliance is leading extensive stabilisation operations in the Balkans as well as in Afghanistan. We are training security forces in Iraq, and assisting the African Union with its peacekeeping mission in Darfur. Moreover, over the past half year, in response to first Hurricane Katrina and then the earthquake in Pakistan, NATO’s unique assets have been used to provide vital humanitarian relief.

Now, whenever I explain this broader orientation of NATO, I am careful to note that we are not turning into some sort of globocop – ready to deal with emergencies all over the world. We simply do not have that ambition, let alone the necessary means. However, all 26 Allies do now look at NATO as a very flexible instrument, that we can use wherever our common security interests demand it. And that new conception of the Alliance offers new, unprecedented opportunities for transatlantic security cooperation well beyond this continent.

The second area of NATO’s transformation is in the military realm. If we want to be prepared to tackle challenges to our security when and where they occur, then we need the forces to do so. What we need, in particular, are forces that can react quickly, that can be deployed over long distances, and sustained over extended periods of time. And we need the right mix of forces capable of performing combat tasks and post-conflict reconstruction work.

Within NATO, we have made good progress in modernising our forces, making them more agile and usable for modern operations. We have, for example, streamlined the Alliance’s military command structure. We have also established a NATO Response Force to be able to react quickly to any emerging crises, including natural disasters. And we are looking into ways to better plan and resource future operational engagements. Of course, military transformation never happens quite as quickly and comprehensively as we all would like to see it. There is always room for improvement. But the overall direction of our military modernisation is very clear indeed.

The third area of NATO’s transformation relates to our relationship with other institutions. In order to tackle today’s complex security challenges, we must apply military, political, economic, and other instruments in a well-coordinated way. This means that NATO will increasingly act in concert with other institutions. On the ground, whether in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq or Darfur, this is already a reality. But we also need structured relationships at the institutional level – to be able to coordinate strategically, not just tactically. And this is a major dimension of NATO’s current transformation as well.

We have made good progress in developing our cooperation with the United Nations. What we need above all, however, is a much stronger partnership between NATO and the European Union. A former US Ambassador to NATO once said that, even though NATO and the EU were based in the same city, it often seemed as though they were on different planets. And it is true that, in the past, our relationship has been characterised by considerable nervousness, and even a degree of suspicion.

I think we are seeing greater realism now on all sides. A realisation that, the Union is bound to become a stronger security actor. But a realisation, also, that the EU can only be an effective security actor when it is a partner for NATO, and not a counterweight. Where that should lead to is a much more pragmatic, transparent partnership between the EU and NATO, which extends well beyond crisis management to cover the full range of security issues before us. This will be a boon for all of us – NATO and EU members alike.

The fourth area of NATO’s transformation that I wish to highlight is the geographic dimension. Now more than ever before, we need to look at certain countries and regions through a common transatlantic lens. This is true for Russia and Ukraine, for the Caucasus and Central Asia, as well as for Northern Africa and the so-called Broader Middle East. Finding ways to help positive change in these different regions, to foster democracy and stability, should be a joint transatlantic effort – or it won’t stand much chance of success.

Again, we are using NATO to promote this common transatlantic approach. We are intensifying our cooperation with Russia and Ukraine, and indeed have opened an intensified dialogue with Ukraine on its aspiration to join the Alliance. We are deepening relations with our Partners in the Caucasus and Central Asia, which are both regions of vital strategic importance. We are enhancing our dialogue and cooperation with a string of countries in Northern Africa and the Middle East – ranging from Morocco to Israel. We are building new ties with countries from the Gulf region. And we are developing closer contacts with countries in Asia and the Pacific – to work together in meeting security challenges that affect them as much as they affect us.

These four key areas of NATO’s transformation that I have highlighted – conceptual, military, institutional, and geographic – all underscore the comprehensive approach to security that NATO has adopted. But I would like to mention yet another aspect of transformation – a challenge that in fact cuts across all other areas of NATO’s evolution: I am talking about the challenge of making NATO more political.

We face new, complex and truly global threats to our security. Parts of the world that used to be well beyond NATO’s radar screens are rapidly growing in relevance. We must discuss new approaches to the broader Middle East, the Caucasus and other regions. And we must take our cooperation with other nations and organisations to a new level.

Those are all enormous challenges. They demand that we exploit NATO’s unique role as a structured, permanent forum for transatlantic political discussion to the maximum extent possible. Ever since I took office, I have been promoting such an enhanced political role for NATO, and I am pleased that the Alliance is now moving in that direction. Over the past year, we have had more regular, and increasingly constructive, political discussions at different levels on issues such as Iraq, Darfur and the Middle East. And I am pleased that NATO is also increasingly seen and respected as a political player – for example in the discussions on the future of Kosovo and Afghanistan.

I believe that there are many more issues that we should consider bringing to the NATO table. And one that leaps to mind is energy security. NATO’s Strategic Concept includes elements of the protection of vital supply lines as one area critical to the security of Allies. Today, for reasons that are obvious – including the potential of terrorists targeting our energy supplies – it makes sense to me that the Allies should discuss this issue. Of course, here in Norway I don’t have to explain at length why this is an important subject. But I want all Allies to engage in a frank and open discussion. To anticipate future trends. And to develop a common perspective.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Back in 1949, your country, Norway, was a founding member of NATO – and for the past 56 years, it has been a real pillar of strength in the Alliance. Norwegian forces have made substantial contributions to NATO’s operations in the Balkans during the 1990s, and continue to show that same commitment in Kosovo and Afghanistan today. But politically, as well, this country has made major contributions. I wish to highlight the crucial role played by Kai Eide, the Norwegian Permanent Representative to NATO, in moving forward the political process in Kosovo. More generally, this country has been a major driver behind NATO’s post-Cold War transformation – the opening of our Alliance, our partnership policy and enlargement process, our engagement in crisis management, and our more recent adaptation to the new, 21 st century security environment.

I want, in this context, to extend a word of appreciation to the Norwegian Atlantic Committee – and to its Secretary General, Chris Prebensen, who is very well remembered back in Brussels from the time he spent at NATO Headquarters. During the Cold War, and even the 1990s, it was relatively easy to explain the international security environment, the risks and threats that we faced, and NATO’s role in meeting those challenges. The last few years, that task has become much more difficult – but also much more important. National organisations such as the Norwegian Atlantic Committee play a vital role in explaining how the Alliance is responding to the new security environment — and how member countries like Norway are both contributing to, and benefiting from, that critical transformation process.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,

NATO’s transformation continues. In November, when NATO’s Heads of State and Government will meet in Riga, we will take the adaptation of our Alliance another major step further. We will confirm NATO’s expanding commitment to Afghanistan; we will welcome the full operational capability of our NATO Response Force, and agree on other measures to better support our operations; regarding NATO enlargement, we will reaffirm the logic of NATO’s open door policy; we will also look at the future of our Partnerships, including at how we can build closer ties to other countries, such as Australia or Japan; and we will deepen the political dialogue among Allies about all subjects of common concern.

I hope that I have made it clear why this is indeed a “new” NATO. A NATO that provides security in new ways and new places. An Alliance that undertakes new missions, and that features new members as well as new partners. This is the new NATO of today. An Alliance that provides Norway with tremendous opportunities to shape the strategic environment in line with its interests and values. And an Alliance that – I am sure – can continue to rely on Norway’s strong political and military support and engagement.

Thank you.