Secretary of Defense William J. Perry Addresses Baltic NATO Membership
In an address on NATO membership to Northern European
and Baltic defense ministers meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark,
September 24, 1996, Secretary of Defense William J. Perry said
that the door is open to central and eastern European nations,
including the Baltic states.
Speaking at a conference on The Future of Defense
Cooperation Around the Baltic Sea, Dr. Perry said, Now the
Baltic nations have applied for membership in NATO. That issue
will be decided not by me nor by the groups here. It will be
decided at a summit meeting by our leaders next year. I want to
share with you my views on the factors that will determine that
Perry went on to say, I want to borrow a phrase from
the United States Declaration of Independence, and say that the
Baltic nations are, and of a right ought to be, free and
independent states.' Second, they ought to be brought into the
security circle of Europe through a strengthened and enhanced
Partnership for Peace, a Super Partnership for Peace. Third,
in my judgment, they are not yet ready to take on the Article V
responsibilities of NATO membership. Fourth, I believe they are
making very good progress in that direction. And finally, we
should all work to hasten the day that they will be ready for
To those nations that are applying and not accepted, I
say that NATO's reply is not no,' it is not yet.' It is very
important to get that very critical distinction. The door
remains open, Perry said.
Speaking to reporters after the event, Perry said that
although the Baltic states do not have the kind of capability yet
that each member of the military alliance has to have, they are
working very hard to get it, and the Nordic nations (and) the
United States are working with them to help make that happen.
The conference, organized by the Danish minister of
Defense, was attended by defense ministers from Denmark, Finland,
the United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, and
Lithuania, and the United States.
The text of the speech follows.
REMARKS AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY
BY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE WILLIAM J. PERRY
SEMINAR ON THE FUTURE OF DEFENSE COOPERATION
AROUND THE BALTIC SEA
September 24, 1996
For more than fifty years of the Cold War, the United States
refused to recognize the forcible incorporation of Estonia,
Latvia and Lithuania into the Soviet Empire. Throughout those
dark days, the Baltic fires of independence and freedom were
suppressed. Today, the Baltic nations are again free, and they
deserve the support of the entire world in preserving that
This conference is addressing the ways that concerned
nations can best manifest that support. It is my belief that
achieving security for the Baltic nations and the Baltic region
is inseparable from the task of creating a new security
architecture for all of Europe. It is only within that larger
context that the unique security problems faced by the Baltic
nations can be solved.
We must create a new circle within which European nations
may find security and stability. To create this new circle of
security, we have three tasks ahead of us: We must restructure
NATO; we must enhance and strengthen the Partnership for Peace,
which can serve as a foundation for this circle of security; and
we must draw the circle so that Russia is inside it, not excluded
from it. Today, I will discuss, in turn, each of these three
We have had endless debates this last year on how to
restructure NATO. NATO was created to protect Western Europe
from an invasion from the East. Now that threat has passed, and
we are trying to restructure NATO to deal with the new challenges
of the post-Cold War era. Our debates to determine how best to
restructure have been in continual danger of emphasizing form
over substance. So I would like to talk a little bit today about
what that substance is. What are the essential features that we
are trying to create and preserve in NATO?
First of all, NATO is a military alliance. Therefore, NATO
must be militarily strong so that it is always able to execute
its Article V mission. If we are successful in that, we will
automatically be in a much better position to deter, so that we
will never have to execute an Article V mission.
Second, NATO must be flexible so that it can effectively
perform out-of-area operations and peace-support operations,
whenever and wherever they are necessary for the security and
stability of Europe.
Besides those two very important military functions, NATO
has two crucial political functions, and these two political
functions sometimes stand in conflict with each other. One of
them is that NATO must make coherent a viable European security
identity. The second is that NATO, at the same time, must serve
as a bridge across the Atlantic to bring America into Europe.
This bridge we are talking about is not the like the London
Bridge. It is not like the Brooklyn Bridge. That is, it is not
like a fixed structure that you build and forget about. Think
instead of the pontoon bridge that IFOR built over the Sava River
in Bosnia. It was a bridge that had to be tended to every day,
as it had to withstand the shifting currents and stormy weather.
That is the kind of bridge that we need to connect America to
Europe. We must work at sustaining that bridge every day.
Europeans should never take for granted American interest
in participating in European security. There is a strong streak
of isolationism in the United States. For the last fifty years,
we have suppressed that streak and maintained a foreign policy
that was outward-looking, and we fully participated in the
security of Europe. We, as Americans, have to continue to work
to suppress that isolationist streak. You, as Europeans, also
have to work at maintaining our involvement in Europe.
Those are four essential features of NATO. The fifth is
that NATO must be open to all qualified members, now and forever.
I did not say NATO was going to expand or enlarge, I said it must
be open. I do not like the term NATO expansion. It suggests
that we are out promoting new countries to join us. Instead, it
is a statement of principle that we are open to any nation that
is qualified and interested.
As it turns out, qualified nations are seeking to join NATO,
and therefore there will be expansion. Have no doubt about that.
That expansion will have both pluses and minuses associated with
it. The plus for a new member is obvious. NATO membership will
be an enhancement of its security. The plus for NATO is equally
obvious. New members will be a basis for revitalizing NATO. The
negatives are also obvious. NATO accession will not only affect
NATO and the new NATO members, it will affect many other nations.
It will affect Russia, Sweden, Finland and Ukraine, and will
certainly affect those nations who apply for membership and who
are not accepted. So that is a very important negative.
Let me talk briefly about each of these negatives. To those
nations that are applying and not accepted, I say that NATO's
reply is not no, it is not yet. It is very important to get
that very critical distinction. The door remains open.
Concerning those nations who are not applying -- Sweden,
Finland, Ukraine -- my judgment in talking with leaders of each
of those nations is that they are quite comfortable with their
present decision to remain outside of NATO, and they are also
quite comfortable with the plans of NATO to enlarge. But it is
quite clear that Russia still fears NATO enlargement. I believe
this will change in time, as Russia comes to understand that NATO
enhances the security and stability of Europe, and, therefore,
NATO indirectly enhances Russia's own security and stability. I
will have more to say about that later in my talk.
For all three of these categories, the nations not yet
accepted, the nations not applying, and for Russia, it is
essential that NATO strengthen and enhance the Partnership for
Peace. So I want to talk about that challenge.
In December 1993, I visited my counterparts in Sweden and
Finland, and I had a primary mission on that visit. NATO had
just conceived of something new called the Partnership for Peace.
It was only a month away from formally approving the initiative,
and I wanted to persuade Sweden and Finland that they ought to be
charter members of this new Partnership for Peace. In the face
of a tradition of neutrality and non-alignment with NATO, it
seemed unlikely that they would join the Partnership for Peace,
since they had no plans to join NATO and still do not. They
pointed out to me, in December 1993, that they were already
experienced peacekeepers. They did not need help, thank you, in
learning how to do peacekeeping.
I told my colleagues that they might not need the
Partnership for Peace, but that the Partnership for Peace needed
them. This was an opportunity, without joining NATO, to
participate in the new security structure being formed for all of
Europe. Finland and Sweden did join as charter members and have
since become two of the strongest members of the Partnership.
We have come a long way since December 1993. Today, Finland
and Sweden, along with Poland, Norway and Denmark, form the
Nordic Brigade in IFOR. They serve alongside not only U.S.
troops, but also Russians and Turks. Who would have believed
that three years ago? The Nordics have also incorporated Baltic
troops into their peacekeeping forces in Bosnia.
What a success the Partnership for Peace has been! As the
first solid step toward creating a new way of providing security
and stability for Europe, the Partnership is now hitting its full
stride. Just last month at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, I
attended the closing ceremony for Cooperative Osprey 96, where
23 nations, including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and
Denmark, all took part in the most sophisticated, most successful
Partnership for Peace exercise ever undertaken. And the two
years of experience in the Partnership for Peace was critical in
the success of forming IFOR, which is not an exercise, but the
Partnership for Peace's progress has been spectacular and
solid, but we must not rest on our laurels. We must create a new
enhanced Partnership for Peace, what some have called a Super
Partnership for Peace. What do people mean when they talk about
a Super Partnership for Peace? I cannot tell you what
everybody else means, but I can tell you what I mean when I
discuss it. To me, it means that the Partnership for Peace
should be able to perform all functions except the Article V
function of NATO. That is, every member of the Super
Partnership for Peace should have the possibility of performing
any of the functions, or be involved in any of the activities
that NATO members undertake, except the Article V responsibility.
Who should be able to join the Super Partnership for
Peace? My answer to that is -- anybody that is willing and able.
Some have argued that this should be reserved for those nations
that applied for membership in NATO and did not get accepted. I
think that would be a mistake. I asked my Baltic colleagues, for
example, how does it help your security if Finland and Sweden are
excluded? I think this would be a negative, not a positive. The
test should be whether a nation is willing and able.
Last June, when the NATO defense ministers met in Brussels,
we sought to strengthen Partnership for Peace and ensure that it
becomes a permanent pillar of Europe's security architecture. At
that meeting, I suggested that NATO nations build mentor
relationships with Partner nations. The Baltic Battalion is the
model that we all look to -- and we can thank our host nation,
Denmark, and their Defense Minister Hans Haekkerup for his
personal leadership in this really magnificent effort. It is
precisely this kind of mentoring that will bring countries like
the Baltics into meaningful participation in the Partnership and
ultimately it will make NATO membership a reality for them.
We must also take steps that will involve our Partners in
the planning as well as the execution of NATO missions. The
Atlantic Partnership Council proposed by Secretary Christopher
would give them a stronger voice in NATO-Partnership activities.
On the military side, NATO and our Partners should conduct more
complex exercises and do contingency planning for, and
participate in, Combined Joint Task Forces.
One of the purposes of my trip this week has been to seek
out ideas on ways we can strengthen the Partnership and help it
reach its full potential. I have been impressed with the
widespread interest in doing this. All of the ideas that I have
gathered on this trip I will add to those ideas being developed
by NATO's Senior Level Group, which is being set up for just that
I have covered two challenges. Let me go to the third
challenge, which is how we bring Russia into this security
circle. This is crucial to the security of all of Europe, and,
in particular, it is critical to the security of the Baltic
Russia has been a key player in Europe's security for over
300 years and it will remain so, for better or for worse. Our job
is to make it for better. We want Russia to play a positive role
in Europe's security. To accomplish this, we need to reach out
both bilaterally and multilaterally.
I can describe to you briefly some of the things the United
States is doing bilaterally. We are working together to reduce
the Cold War nuclear arsenal through START I, START II and the
Nunn-Lugar program. We are engaged in active dialogue in the
Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission talks, and we are participating in
an extensive program of joint exercises, bilateral as well as
multilateral exercises. In the last few years, we have conducted
four bilateral exercises with Russia -- two on Russian soil and
two on American soil.
Russia, while it is deeply interested in its US
relationship, is also responsive to confidence-building efforts
from its European neighbors. All the nations of Europe -- large
and small -- must try to deepen their bilateral relationships
with Russia. Of course, we must act on a multilateral basis as
Russia has taken the first step by joining the Partnership
for Peace, but has been very hesitant at taking the follow-on
steps so that it can get the full advantage of the Partnership.
We need to work harder at that, but most importantly, they need
to accept the Partnership for Peace as something that is in their
security interest. We hope and we expect that Russia will assume
a role in the Partnership for Peace commensurate with its status
as a great power.
Russian participation in the Partnership for Peace is
critically important in bringing Russia into this security
circle, but the Russian participation in IFOR was truly the
Our experience in Bosnia with the Russians, from the
beginning, was a gamble. It was a gamble to get them to agree to
participate. It was a gamble that, once they did agree, we could
make their participation work. It has worked, and it has worked
far better than even the most optimistic of us assumed.
About two months ago, I went to Bosnia, and while visiting
our troops and leaders there, I went over to visit the Russian
brigade. I met with General Lentsov, who is the commander of
that brigade. I met with our colonel who heads the American
brigade that is serving side-by-side with the Russians. They told
me several interesting stories, all of which added up to real
cooperation and a really effective implementation of the
peacekeeping mission that they were conducting.
For example, from the first week the Russian troops were in
Bosnia, the two brigade commanders got together and observed that
the Serbs thought the Americans were not going to implement our
responsibilities in an even-handed fashion, and the Muslims
thought the Russians would be biased against them. And so, the
two brigade commanders said: tough problem, simple solution.
The simple solution was that they send out joint squads.
Americans and Russians joined together in all of their patrols.
Wherever they went in Serb country, Muslim country, or Croat
country, the patrols had representatives from both the US and
Russia, and the even-handed issue disappeared.
When I met with General Lentsov, I surprised him by
presenting him with the Legion of Merit, which is an American
military medal we rarely give to foreign leaders. It was not
meant as just a symbolic statement. It really was our judgment
that this man had performed in an outstanding way as the brigade
commander of the Russian troops in Bosnia.
By its participation in IFOR, Russia is demonstrating its
commitment to participate in the future security architecture of
Europe. Let me tell you one other story, which brings this home
to me in a very vivid way. When I was in Pervomaysk, Ukraine
with Minister Grachev earlier this year, we went out together to
blow up an ICBM site, which was a very interesting event in and
of itself. After that event, there was a press conference. At
the press conference, Minister Grachev was asked the question
that he was always asked at a press conference, which was: What
do you think about NATO enlargement? And Grachev gave the same
answer that he always gave to that question and that all of the
other government officials in Russia gave. At the end of that
answer he said, On the other hand, I am observing that NATO can
provide some positive benefits to the security of Europe. I see
what they are doing in Bosnia. I see a good Russian participation
in IFOR. Maybe something different and important and positive is
happening in NATO.
This was the first time I had ever heard him or any other
Russian official make a statement like that. It is my belief
that, with time and with patience, the understanding will grow in
Russia that NATO, far from being a threat to them, is in a
position to help contribute to their own security.
Now we have to build on the success of IFOR, and
institutionalize the NATO-Russia relationship. At the last NATO
Defense Ministers' meeting in Brussels, we agreed with then
Russian Defense Minister Grachev to make permanent the ad hoc
arrangements, which had been created for IFOR. The communication
structure and the command structure we set up allowed NATO and
the Russians to work together. We agreed that the Russians
should establish a permanent office at NATO headquarters, and
vice versa, that NATO should establish a permanent office at the
General Staff headquarters in Russia. These offices would help
promote transparency in defense planning on the part of both
Russia and NATO, and certainly would help increase confidence and
These offices are only one step toward the process that we
should undertake in NATO to institutionalize this relationship
and put it on a stronger and more permanent basis. Two weeks
ago, Secretary of State Christopher called for a Russia - NATO
charter that would give us a permanent mechanism for working
together to meet new security challenges. This charter, as I see
it, would spell out a formal way of communication between Russia
and NATO. This is an important step that we need to take.
I have talked to you about three challenges that we face in
NATO. They make up an ambitious agenda for the Baltic region,
for Europe, and for the United States in the months and years
ahead. The countries that are represented at this conference will
play a pivotal role in successfully meeting these challenges.
The Nordic countries have already, and will continue to
reach out in three directions. They have reached out to Poland
and to the Baltics and developed special bilateral and regional
relationships. They have reached out through the Partnership for
Peace to all of Europe -- particularly the Balkans -- through
their peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia and Macedonia. And they
have also reached out to Russia.
Poland has, of course, made itself a leading candidate for
NATO membership, but it is also taking on a creative role in
Partnership for Peace, reaching out to Lithuania, as well as to
their neighbors -- Belarus and Ukraine -- and Russia. And
Germany, like the United States, is expected to and has played a
leading role in making the Partnership for Peace a success,
particularly in the Baltic region.
On our part, we must do all we can to promote the security
of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The United States is working
cooperatively with the Baltics and other nations on a Baltic
Action Plan which sets forth steps that will: Embed the Baltics
into the security and economic framework of Europe; promote
positive relations with Russia; and support the political,
economic and social progress of the Baltic states. We want to
make the Baltics a region known for their possibilities, not
their problems. To do this, the other nations of the region must
continue to lend their support.
The Baltic nations have struggled to restore freedom and
rebuild the institutions of a democratic society. They have
maintained exemplary participation in Partnership for Peace, not
only in exercises, but in the real work of peacekeeping in Bosnia
and other places around the globe. They have made impressive
commitments and have shown that we can count on them to do their
Now the Baltic nations have applied for membership in NATO.
That issue will be decided not by me nor by the groups here. It
will be decided at a summit meeting by our leaders next year. I
want to share with you my views on the factors that will
determine that decision.
First of all, I want to borrow a phrase from the United
States Declaration of Independence, and say that the Baltic
nations are, and of a right ought to be, free and independent
states. Second, they ought to be brought into the security
circle of Europe through a strengthened and enhanced Partnership
for Peace, a Super Partnership for Peace. Third, in my
judgment, they are not yet ready to take on the Article V
responsibilities of NATO membership. Fourth, I believe they are
making very good progress in that direction. And finally, we
should all work to hasten the day that they will be ready for
Last night, Hans Haekkerup quoted Shakespeare's play Hamlet.
Hamlet observed that the times are out of joint, and he
lamented that he was called upon to set them straight. Hamlet
finally took action to do that, but by the time he took it, it
was so late that the tragedy still occurred.
Thinking of the actions that we are going to be facing in
the months ahead, I also wanted to quote from Shakespeare, but
not from Hamlet. I will quote from his play Julius Caesar:
There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood,
leads on to fortune. On such a full sea are we now afloat, and
we must take the current when it serves. On such a full sea we
are now afloat. The decisions that we make in the 12 months
ahead are going to be critical. They need to be the right
decisions, and conferences like this give us the opportunity to
think through the important issues that we are facing. But they
also must be timely decisions. We must take the current when it