Albright Looks to NATO's Future
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
LUXEMBOURG, June 4, 1998 As the North Atlantic Treaty Organization heads toward its 50th anniversary summit, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright called on alliance leaders May 28 to set the course for the future.
The April 1999 summit will define the NATO of the 21st century, she said here. "Our task is to make clear what our alliance will do and what our partnership will mean in a Europe truly whole and free, and in a world that looks to us for principled and purposeful leadership for peace, for prosperity and for freedom."
Albright was among the ministers from NATO's 16 member nations, Russia, and Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and 25 other Partnership for Peace nations who gathered here for meetings May 28 and 29.
Albright told NATO leaders she hopes they'll declare the alliance's purpose at the anniversary summit in Washington. She suggested the declaration should give the guidance planners need to address the full spectrum of military contingencies NATO forces are likely to face in the future.
"NATO's primary mission must remain collective defense against aggression, but we have also always had the option to use NATO's strength beyond its borders to protect our security interests," Albright said. "If joint military action is ever needed to protect vital alliance interests, NATO should be our institution of choice."
NATO has taken important steps to adapt to the post-Cold War era, Albright noted, including revising its strategic concept and command structure, reaching out to new democracies and taking on new missions such as its Bosnia peace operation. "Such missions have become part of what NATO is all about, as is our commitment to undertake them with our partner nations whenever possible," she said.
In preparing for future challenges, alliance leaders must ensure NATO can do what it says, Albright said. This includes expanding efforts to counter proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, addressing interoperability challenges and promoting greater defense industrial cooperation. "The point is to ensure our alliance has the means to accomplish its task, to protect security and thus to allow freedom and prosperity to flourish," she said.
The "means" to act must be accompanied by the will to act, Albright said, citing India's recent nuclear tests as the kind of problem requiring NATO's "joint action and resolve."
"Only by acting together to impose a price for this kind of behavior can we deter others from pursuing the nuclear option," she said. "Only by rewarding restraint with tangible support can we encourage nations with the capacity to go nuclear to join the overwhelming majority that have chosen not to do so."
(Shortly after her speech, Albright and other NATO officials learned Pakistan that morning had conducted five nuclear tests. At a press conference later in the day, Albright told reporters, "Although Pakistan did not start this round of the arms race, its decision to join it is a serious error." She urged India and Pakistan to renounce further tests, sign the Nonproliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and take immediate steps to reduce tension.)
In the months ahead, NATO must strengthen and modernize Europe's partnership with North America, Albright continued. This includes promoting free and open trade as well as working through political differences in order to advance mutual interests.
History "has taught us that we need a partnership in which you can count on us and we can count on you," Albright said. "Our goals are enduring -- providing security, ensuring prosperity and defending democracy."
These goals include welcoming new members. Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, the first new candidates since 1982, "shall not be the last," she declared. NATO must admit new members when they prove they are ready politically, economically and militarily, she said. "Our timetable should be driven not by political calculations, but by the performance of aspiring countries. There should be no artificial deadlines or premature promises."
Future membership rounds must protect NATO's reputation as an alliance of nations willing and able to share military and financial burdens, Albright said. She added NATO should help candidates "reach the finish line, instead of moving the line closer and waiting for them to cross." She said the alliance must give aspiring countries a process that helps them understand what they must do to make membership a real possibility.
As the alliance moves to reunite Europe and erase the Cold War's dividing line, it must also strengthen relations with the 28 Partnership for Peace nations and its special relationships with Ukraine and Russia, Albright said. "Of course it is up to Russia to choose how it will engage with NATO and the world. But Russia is far more likely to make right choices about its future if we continue to make clear that its future lies with us."
All of this represents a big agenda for NATO, Albright concluded. But, she said, it's not "too ambitious" for the alliance that has defended Europe for half a century and "survived and even flourished through a time of breathtaking change."