Speech by Norwegian Defence Minister Mrs. Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen,
at The Leangkollen Seminar, 2 February 2009:
2009 will be an important year for NATO. This great Alliance is celebrating its 60th birthday. It is still going strong, and there is no sign of an imminent retirement. In the aftermath of the Cold War, NATO has shown a remarkable ability to adapt its missions and tasks to stay relevant.
In 2009 the major event will be the Anniversary Summit that symbolically will take place in Strasbourg and Kehl in early April, on both sides of the French-German border. This will provide Allies with an opportunity to come together and to demonstrate cohesion.
The Summit will be President Obama’s first meeting in the Alliance, and will be an opportunity to reaffirm the strong bonds between Europe and North America – the so called Transatlantic link. This is especially important having in mind the - at times - strained relationship that of many European Allies with the Bush-administration over issues ranging from the war in Iraq to Guantanamo and the treatment of so-called “unlawful combatants”.
Life was not always easy for those of us who tried to adhere to fundamental international norms while simultaneously maintaining close transatlantic ties. Different European allies choose different solutions to this dilemma; which in turn meant that tensions did not only go across the Atlantic but among European allies themselves.
It is therefore with great relief that we see that president Obama has been moving impressively fast to re-establish the pre-eminence of key universal values and norms as the basis of America’s foreign policy. As staunch Atlanticist, I am convinced that this will make it far easier to confront common challenges in the future. It is my firm conviction that our collective power to change the world is much stronger when our economic, political and military instruments are used in ways fully consistent with the values and principles that we seek to strengthen.
If we allow for double standards, on the other hand, our credibility is undermined in ways that “hard power” cannot mend. We also welcome the Obama administration’s stated willingness to engage in dialogue also with one’s adversaries, including with Iran and the parties in the Middle East conflict. This is fully in line with Norway’s approach to international problem solving.
The United States, however, is not the only major NATO power that is adapting its policies. Even though France yet has formally to signal its return to full participation in the integrated military structures of NATO, it is expected that this will be publicly announced in time before the Summit in April. Politically this is very important, and will in my view further strengthen the cohesion of the Alliance.
Also, militarily the increased French participation in the integrated structures of NATO will be a great advantage for the Alliance.
In light of these significant events I do not think this Summit will be remembered for the number of policy-decisions being made. Rather, the Summit will be a time for setting the future course of the Alliance.
At the Summit the Declaration on Alliance Security will be presented. It will be a short document that will reaffirm the general political principles on which NATO is founded. In a general manner it will provide direction for the further work on a new Strategic Concept.
Before I look closer at the role of NATO in the 21st Century I will briefly address the security challenges facing the Alliance. The strategic context within which the Alliance will operate politically and militarily will of course be influential in defining future policies, operations and capability development in NATO. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full text of the speech (HTML format), on the Norwegian MoD website.