On 28 and 29 November NATO Heads of State and Government will meet in Riga, the capital of Latvia. It is the first Summit in one of the countries that joined the Alliance in the last enlargement round of 2004. Nothing could illustrate more clearly the breathtaking changes that have happened in Europe over the last one and a half decades.
Throughout that period of Europe’s political transformation, NATO has been transforming too, and acting as a catalyst of positive change. A brief look at NATO’s past Summits reveals how closely the Alliance’s evolution has been intertwined with Europe’s maturation into an undivided and democratic security zone. The London Summit of 1990 declared the Cold War over and offered a hand of friendship to the East. Rome 1991 defined the contours of a new NATO, including a new Strategic Concept. Brussels 1994 gave this new NATO a more concrete agenda, including potential enlargement and new mechanisms for security cooperation throughout the entire Euro-Atlantic area.
In 1997 we put the NATO-Russia relationship on a solid institutional foundation and the Madrid Summit of the same year issued invitations to three new members as well as reaching out to Ukraine. At Washington in 1999 we codified much of our crisis management experience from the Balkans, and looked to the future with a new, much broader Strategic Concept which added crisis management and Partnership to NATO’s principal task of collective defence. At the 2002 Prague Summit seven additional countries were invited to join NATO, and the Organization changed even more substantially in order to cope with the new 21st century security challenges, especially terrorism. Finally, the 2004 Istanbul Summit reinforced NATO’s commitment to building peace in Afghanistan and opened a new chapter of cooperation with countries from the broader Middle East region. All these Summits moved NATO forward from a static Alliance into a dynamic agent of change.
The Riga Summit will continue this tradition. Like previous summits, it will not have a single “showpiece”, but will advance NATO’s agenda in many critical areas. The Summit will focus on three “baskets” of work: political engagement, defence transformation, and operations. Let me say a few words about some of the principal topics in each of these baskets.
First, at Riga, there is the political “basket”. This includes enlargement, our partnerships, and a training initiative. NATO’s enlargement policy has already contributed significantly to spreading stability and security, especially through Central and Eastern Europe. At Riga, we will wish to emphasise our continued commitment to the open door policy and to further enlargement of the Alliance. I do not expect invitations to join the Alliance to be issued. However, Allies will encourage our three current membership aspirants, Albania, Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, to continue the efforts they are making to qualify for membership. And Allies will probably also announce their further responses to Ukraine’s, as well as to Georgia’s, declared interest in joining the Alliance.
If there is to be any semblance of order and security in today’s world, the transatlantic community must accept the responsibility to act where action is required – whether the issue is to prevent terrorism or to provide humanitarian relief
NATO’s partnerships are another success story. We have been building links with non-member countries since the end of the Cold War. At Riga, we will seek to preserve the elements of our Partnership framework that work well, and at the same time make them even more valuable both for our Partners, and for the Alliance. And we shall look to build closer ties with selected countries such as Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan. These countries share our values, and they share our security concerns. They have demonstrated an increasing readiness to assume security responsibilities beyond their own borders, and have expressed a desire to work more closely with NATO. Cooperating with such faraway partners will not turn NATO into a global policeman. It will, however, allow us to build global partnerships. And that is a key requirement for projecting stability.
We are also looking to further enhance our outreach to our partners in the Mediterranean Dialogue and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative. The idea of a NATO Training Initiative for the broader Middle East region has received widespread support and interest, as it would focus on a subject in which NATO has unrivalled expertise.
We must continue to strengthen the role of NATO as a forum for political dialogue as well. We need to foster a more forward-looking dialogue among the Allies. We must not limit ourselves to discussing immediate challenges related to current operations, but also look ahead. Indeed, no topic should be off limits. At NATO, we have made a good start. For example, we have been discussing issues such as the Middle East, support for African Union peacekeeping, and energy security. Over time, this will lead to a greater awareness of the crucial issues of our age, a precondition for any common approach.
Heads of state and government will also want to ensure that NATO has the right capabilities to maximise our chances of success in these and future operations and missions. And this leads me to the second “basket” of work at Riga – defence transformation. Projecting stability requires forces that can react quickly, that can be deployed over long distances, and that can be sustained over a long period of time. And we need forces that are capable of performing both high intensity combat tasks and post-conflict reconstruction work. We have made good progress in developing such capabilities. The NATO Response Force, which should be fully operational by the time of the Riga Summit, will enable us to react to new challenges even more quickly. Several initiatives to enhance our capabilities in critical areas – such as air- and sealift, command and control, and logistics – have also yielded tangible results.
However, still more needs to be done if NATO is to meet the challenges ahead. That is why, at Riga, we will move beyond taking stock of the progress made so far, and also take a hard look at our force planning and force generation procedures to better match our political decisions and military commitments. We will also look at how to adapt our funding arrangements to make them fairer, so that nations can more easily commit to operations. All these steps will ensure that future missions can be better planned, equipped, and paid for. This will further strengthen our ability to deploy the right forces at the right time.
In the past, NATO’s main concern was to safeguard our member countries from foreign invasion or political intimidation. Today, our security can be affected by developments that happen entirely within the borders of another country. Regional conflicts, terrorism, failed states and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are challenges that do not lend themselves to the traditional, pre-planned and well-rehearsed military solutions of the Cold War. Nor can they be met with a purely reactive approach. We must defend against these new threats in an entirely new way by projecting stability. Territorial defence remains a core function, but we simply can no longer protect our security without addressing the potential risks and threats that arise far from our homes. Either we tackle these problems when and where they emerge, or they will end up on our doorstep.
This is the logic that lies at the heart of NATO’s operations. And these operations, from the Balkans to the Hindu Kush, are making a difference. If the Western Balkan countries are now at peace and on their way into the European mainstream, it is because the international community, and notably NATO, got engaged. And if the Afghan people are now again in control of their own future, it is because soldiers from NATO and partner nations provide the secure environment that is essential for rebuilding the country.
These operations are proof that engagement matters and that it produces tangible results. But NATO cannot rest on its laurels. Developments over the last few years have clearly shown that the demand for NATO is growing. If we want to be able to cope with these additional demands, we must push NATO’s adaptation further, building on our operational experience. At Riga, heads of state and government will consider the situation in Afghanistan, where NATO is being seriously tested. And they will also consider how NATO’s engagement can continue to contribute to the future of Kosovo after the Status Talks come to an end.
These are the key subjects for the Riga Summit this November but it would be wrong to think that they are the only issues on NATO’s plate. The Alliance’s overall agenda is even broader. Independent of the Summit, we will continue to work closely with Russia and look to deepen this essential relationship even further. And we continue to work towards establishing closer ties with other institutions, notably the EU and the UN, as well as with non-governmental organisations. Cooperation on the ground is working relatively well, but we need greater cooperation at the institutional level, so that we all work to the same end, complementing and mutually reinforcing our individual activities.
In an increasingly small and interdependent world, equating security with the security of one’s own territory clearly is much too narrow a definition of national interest. If there is to be any semblance of order and security in today’s world, the transatlantic community must accept the responsibility to act where this is required whether the issue is to prevent terrorism or to provide humanitarian relief. It is this understanding of security that has inspired NATO’s evolution since the end of the Cold War. This evolution will continue, along the lines that I have just outlined with new capabilities, more dialogue, more partners, new ties to other institutions, and, eventually, new members. The Riga Summit will be a focal point for these efforts. It will be another strong demonstration that NATO is meeting the challenge of change.
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is Secretary General of NATO.