Self-Help High on European Agenda, NATO's Solana Says
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 28, 1997 NATO may be able to respond to European crises in the years ahead without American military help, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana said here July 24.
A new "trans-Atlantic bargain" is in the making, he told students at American University. "The European Union is trying to develop a common foreign and security policy -- to become a strategic actor in its own right." This would allow Europeans to take more responsibility in upholding security and stability in Europe and beyond, Solana said.
"No longer will the alliance be caught in a false choice between U.S. engagement or no engagement in a crisis," he said. "Where the alliance ... agrees that an operation can and should be led by Europeans, it will, for the first time, be a realistic option."
As Europeans take on greater responsibility for their own security, Solana said, Europe also will be in a better position to support the United States in contingencies outside Europe. This new, more self-reliant role will reflect the new realities of a new century, he said.
America and Europe remain united as they have for the past 50 years. "What has made our North Atlantic community so successful is that for many decades we kept the light of freedom burning, while in the East of Europe basic freedoms and human rights existed only as a distant memory," Solana said.
Even though the Cold War has ended, the alliance is as important today as it was in the past, he said. If anything, common challenges have multiplied -- helping democracy and prosperity take root in Eastern Europe; creating a partnership with a democratic Russia; building new security ties throughout the Euro-Atlantic area; and preventing the spread of nuclear and chemical weapons.
He said the most urgent challenge is managing the continent's new crises and old conflicts. At present, tackling these problems alone would overtax European capabilities, Solana said. It would also deprive the United States of its ability to help shape the new Europe.
"Instability in Europe would endanger the global trend toward democracy, the free market and the rule of law," he said. It also would directly impact America's economy -- U.S. sales to Europe total more than $120 billion a year, Solana noted, and half of America's foreign investment is in Western Europe.
"Europe needs the United States, but the United States also needs Europe. As long as the United States wants to remain a global power, it will have to remain fully involved in Europe," he said.
NATO is growing and restructuring to meet the challenges ahead. The 16 member nations invited Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic to join. NATO and Russia recently created a new partnership; representatives to a permanent joint council now meet regularly to discuss common concerns. More than 40 nations belong to NATO's Partnership for Peace, and a new Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council expands partner nation contact with NATO allies.
"Through the alliance's cooperative approach, almost all countries in the Euro-Atlantic area are now bound together in a common commitment to a more peaceful, stable future," Solana said. This is visible in Bosnia, where troops from more than 30 nations are united in "a coalition for peace," he said.
"Clearly, the job of changing attitudes, overcoming fear and hatred is a long-term project," Solana said. "But what better example is there than the cooperation we demonstrate through NATO?"