By Doug Bereuter

I would like to thank Mr Vladimír Špidla, the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, for taking the time to be with us today. We are looking forward to hearing from him and, on behalf of all the participants in this meeting of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, I would like to thank him for the generous hospitality and the warm welcome we have received from the government of the Czech Republic, from the leader of the Czech delegation to the Assembly, Mrs Vlasta Parkanova, and from all the members of the Czech delegation.

It is a great pleasure to meet here in this beautiful city in the heart of Europe. And it is particularly fitting that we meet in the capital of one of the newest members of the Alliance. It reminds us that NATO is a living, growing, and evolving organization.

A great step forward in that evolution was taken here in Prague just a few months ago when Alliance leaders met in a landmark summit to transform NATO and enable it to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century.

We are all familiar with the decisions that NATO’s leaders adopted at the Prague Summit: namely to increase the Alliance’s defence capabilities, to strengthen and deepen its many partnerships, and to invite seven new members to accede to the Washington Treaty. Our meeting here today is our first plenary since those countries signed the accession protocols, and I look forward to prompt ratification of those protocols by our member parliaments so that we can welcome their delegations as full members of this Assembly at our spring session in Bratislava next year.

Unfortunately, the success of the Prague Summit was soon overshadowed by the crisis over Iraq. Differences over how to deal with the regime of Saddam Hussein led to rifts within the United Nations, within the European Union, and within NATO. There were also sharp divisions of opinion within many of our nations. I will not dwell on all these aspects: I would like to focus on the one which is most directly relevant to members of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly: the effects on NATO and the TransAtlantic relationship.

When I was elected as President of the Assembly, I identified transatlantic relations as one of my priorities. Within the Assembly over the past few years, we have all been aware of the increasing strains in transatlantic relations, and the significant and growing differences in attitude and perception between the United States and many of its NATO allies. As I said six months ago: “Left unaddressed, this gap will erode the solidarity and cohesion of the Alliance.”

Sadly, we soon saw signs that NATO’s solidarity and cohesion were under pressure. In February, the fundamental collective security guarantee of the Alliance was called into question when several allies blocked NATO from taking steps to plan for the defence of Turkey. While the matter was ultimately resolved and the requested steps were approved, those of us who met in Brussels in February were taken aback by the bitterness of the dispute among NATO allies. But we were all encouraged that this bitterness did not extend to the meeting of the members of this Assembly, who discussed the same issues in a much more constructive and tolerant fashion.

Perhaps we can take some consolation in the fact that the damage that NATO sustained was, in the words of Secretary General Robertson, “above the waterline.” I fear that the damage to other international institutions, most notably the United Nations and the European Union, was far worse.

The failure of the UN Security Council to enforce more than a dozen previous resolutions on Iraq since 1991, and the dispute over how to enforce Resolution 1441, certainly has raised doubts about the ability of the United Nations to compel compliance with its resolutions and even about the UN’s usefulness as an instrument of international security. At the same time, within the European Union, efforts to create a Common Foreign and Security Policy were dealt a severe set-back by the deep differences between EU members who favoured military action against Iraq and those who fervently opposed such action. It is important to remember that the dispute was not a total TransAtlantic dispute, but rather a dispute between some European countries and the countries that led the coalition in military action in Iraq. Nevertheless, we must acknowledge and act upon the challenge of restoring the unity of the North Atlantic Alliance.

As has been suggested by my French colleague and friend, our Vice President Pierre Lellouche, now is the time for the “camp for war” and the “camp for peace” to come together as a “camp for democracy”, working to defend our nations and further the prosperity of our peoples.

The first step will be to reach a common understanding of what constitutes the greatest threat to our security today. Soviet and Yugoslav Communism have collapsed, but security threats have not disappeared. Forging a common response requires first that the NATO nations recognize the threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, terrorist states, and the nexus of these three.

No nation alone can adequately address these threats to our security. Quite simply, we need an international framework. In this effort, Europe and North America must be partners, not rivals – not counterweights. At the Prague Summit, the Alliance embarked on a course of transformation to ensure that it plays a full part in our response to these new security threats.

This effort began one year ago in Reykjavik, where our foreign ministers agreed “that NATO must be able to field forces that can move quickly to wherever they are needed, sustain operations over distance and time, and achieve their objectives.” In other words, there is no longer an “out-of-area” debate. I am proud to note that this Parliamentary Assembly reached that conclusion and decision several years earlier. This point is underlined by the decision that in August NATO will take over the command, coordination and planning of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. NATO nations already provide ninety-five percent of the troops involved. More than twenty countries are contributing nearly six thousand troops for the security and stability of Afghanistan, and nearly half of those troops are from Germany.

This will be the first time that NATO has undertaken an operation outside of Europe or North America. It is a major step forward for the Alliance and one that demonstrates the Alliance’s value in ensuring peace and security in one of the most troubled areas of the world.

Indeed, I believe that this, the collective commitment of NATO to peace and stability in Afghanistan, is as important to the future of the Alliance as was the first tentative step outside NATO’s traditional area, taken when NATO first deployed forces to the Balkans.

Of course, we are all aware of the difficulties that NATO has faced in the past concerning defence capabilities, and at the Prague Summit, Alliance leaders launched several initiatives to deal with those difficulties. The most important for enabling the Alliance to confront today’s security threats are the NATO Response Force and the Prague Capabilities Commitment.

The NATO Response Force will be the tip of NATO’s peace and stability spear. The NRF will be a vehicle to enable European and Canadian allies to join with the United States in developing forces that can rapidly deploy wherever they are needed and apply decisive power, either to achieve victory or to clear the way for follow-on forces. By facilitating the transformation of allied forces and by giving NATO a high-end expeditionary capability, the NRF will help the Alliance perform the kinds of missions that are likely in the future.

I am pleased that so many Alliance nations are seeking to participate in the NRF, and I particularly welcome the participation of France, which, of course, is not a member of NATO’s integrated military command. I strongly urge our governments to resolve the few remaining questions surrounding the NRF, and get on with its creation, because I truly believe that this force is critical to the future military effectiveness of the Alliance.

Unfortunately, I am less sanguine about the progress being made toward implementing the Prague Capabilities Commitment. When the PCC was announced last year, it was thought to be an elegantly precise solution for remedying the most pressing capability shortfalls in NATO by focussing specific lead countries on a few key items. However, it seems that political will is lacking. Governments cannot merely make a commitment to consider procurement of needed items; they must actually commit to buy what their armed forces need, and they must procure it quickly. A failure on this point will ensure that the PCC ends up on the trash heap with other NATO capabilities initiatives, and it will ensure the failure of the NRF if nations refuse to equip their forces to carry out Alliance missions.

Of course, the capabilities that the European members of NATO develop are capabilities that will also be available to the European Union in its efforts to develop a rapid reaction force. Over the last six months, NATO and the European Union have made great progress in working out and implementing practical co-operation between them. A clear example of this came in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, with the smooth transition from NATO’s “Operation Allied Harmony” to the EU’s “Operation Concordia.” The EU is the logical institution to take over peacekeeping in the Balkans, because it can also call on its capacities in the areas of civilian police, institution building, and reconstruction assistance. Ultimately, the solution to the crises of the 1990’s will be the full integration of this region in the EU. I hope that continued success in “Operation Concordia” will open the door to an eventual hand-over to the European Union of peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

I would also like to acknowledge the role that the European Union is playing in the struggle against terrorism. The collective effort by the EU in vigorously pursuing terrorists and improving international co-operation in law enforcement has facilitated international cooperation. This has been substantial and important. Given the common challenges that we face, efforts to turn the European Union into a counterweight to the United States are neither in the interest of Europe or the United States. We cannot waste energy and effort on diplomatic struggles with one another. The problems of terrorism, proliferation, and terrorist states are global, and thus our response must be international, with the widest level of participation possible.

Before closing, I would like to say a few words about Iraq.

Whatever our past disagreements, we should rejoice that a dictator of incredible ruthlessness and brutality has been removed from power. It is in our common interest now to see that Iraq is successfully reconstituted and brought back into the community of nations. A prosperous and free Iraq will be a model for much needed reforms around the region, and our priority must be to assist the people of Iraq to move forward from the dreadful legacy of Saddam Hussein.

I commend the nations on both sides of this debate for taking the first steps toward building a better future for Iraq. The agreement within the UN Security Council last week to lift sanctions and provide for an interim administration in Iraq will allow Iraq to rejoin the world economy and to benefit from the expertise that the international community has gained in rebuilding societies from Kosovo to East Timor. At NATO, the decision to provide planning, force generation, and communications support to the Polish-led division in Iraq will help one of our newest allies play a leading role in the stabilization effort. NATO’s support in Iraq, coupled with its growing role in Afghanistan, signals NATO’s willingness to take on out-of-area operations, and more importantly, its vital role in the global war on terrorism.

While many commentators are searching for new missions to NATO, its original mission – the collective defence of its members – must remain its primary purpose, albeit with a changed focus on terrorism, WMD proliferation, and terrorist states. At the same time, NATO can undertake related missions that will enhance security and stability on its periphery and help contain the main threats to its member nations.

But military capabilities alone do not define NATO. While this is undeniably a TransAtlantic drift between the European and the American in attitudes and perceptions, the foundations of the Alliance are shared core values and beliefs. These include a commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Given the common threats that Europe and North America face and the common values that we hold, we must remain committed to our common defence.

Mr. Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen, rest assured that in this effort, the Members of the Assembly will continue to play our role in furthering mutual understanding, in consolidating this indispensable Alliance, and in providing our governments the legislative guidance and advice that must underpin their decisions to transform and further energize the NATO Alliance.

Thank you.

* Turkey recognizes the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name

Leave a Reply