Remarks by the Deputy Secretary of Defense
The Honorable Gordon R. England
NATO in the 21st Century: Albanian and Macedonian Perspectives
1 February 2007
“An American View of Partnership”
Thank you, John [Hamre] for the warm introduction. You might not all know this, but John was also the Deputy Secretary of Defense. Every day, I try to live up to the high standards he set! It is delightful to be here today, and thanks to the Center for Strategic and International Studies for hosting this important event.
Mr. Ministers – Fatmir and Lazar, it sounds strange to call you “Ministers” because you are also friends – I do thank you for your own remarks. A lot of our friendship is due to your Embassies here in Washington, but even more, it’s due to the strong and growing friendships among our people.
This afternoon, I’d like to complement my counterparts’ views with a few of my own perspectives – about how our common efforts can best address the larger security context that we all face together.
As all of you know, this is a critical time in world history. It is a time when no single nation can stand alone. “Partnership” is the cornerstone of America’s strategy for meeting the challenge. As Alexander the Great said, “Remember – upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all”. That could not have applied in the past any more than it does today.
In the security area, Albania and Macedonia – two former security assistance “consumers” - have transformed themselves, in a very short time, into direct contributors to global security, including our common efforts in the war on terror.
That includes making tough choices at home – like freezing the assets of suspected terrorists, and moving to downsize and reorient militaries built for a different era. And it includes the tough but important choice to devote scarce resources to defense – Albania has committed to raising defense spending to 2% of GDP by 2008; and Macedonia is already well above the NATO threshold. Not many of our allies meet that standard, so I do thank you for that.
As players on the international stage, Albania and Macedonia are now helping extend the promise of freedom to those who have known far too little of it, as part of the coalition efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Albania was one of only a handful of partner countries to send combat forces to Iraq in the early stages of the fight. In 2003, about 70 Albanian commandos joined the 101st Airborne Division in northern Iraq and contributed directly to coalition efforts. Today, Albania has an even larger infantry presence in Iraq, and contributes both Special Operations Forces and medical expertise to ISAF in Afghanistan. And Albania continues to participate in the EU-led effort in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Macedonia, too, supports the EU mission in Bosnia, and hosted NATO forces supporting operations in Kosovo for four years. And Macedonia is contributing troops with key specialized skills to coalition efforts in the war on terror – including special forces in Iraq; and infantry and medical specialists in Afghanistan. By removing national caveats in Afghanistan, Macedonia is very helpfully increasing commanders’ flexibility and responsiveness.
Last year, the Albanian representative to US Central Command said, “even the smallest birds want to fly”. Your countries are both beginning to soar!
The way forward doesn’t necessarily look easy – but it does look bright. In today’s highly complex global environment, Albania and Macedonia have further key contributions to make to both regional security and common global efforts.
At the regional level, Albania and Macedonia, working with Croatia in the Adriatic Charter format, have the opportunity to strengthen political, economic and defense cooperation within the Balkans region, as well as the integration of the region into broader European and trans-Atlantic institutions, including NATO.
NATO itself – the bedrock of the trans-Atlantic partnership – is undergoing essential transformation. To meet today’s more complex and geographically diffuse challenges, NATO is developing more expeditionary capabilities – the ability to respond quickly and effectively, anywhere in the world. It is a dynamic time to get on board.
At the Riga Summit late last year, NATO welcomed the efforts so far by Albania, Croatia and Macedonia to prepare “for the responsibilities and obligations of membership”.
For its part, the United States has staunchly supported your progress so far, and will continue to support your efforts, as you prepare to make the strongest possible cases for membership at the 2008 NATO Summit.
NATO’s recent invitation to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Serbia to join the Partnership for Peace program is indeed a reason for optimism – and another concrete indication that the door remains open.
Of course, as the Riga Declaration made clear – the hard work is not over. NATO does expect further progress on defense reform and the rule of law. Frankly, both areas require fundamental cultural change, as well as adjustments on paper, and that will be a challenge. 2007 will be a pivotal year for Albania and Macedonia – a time for hard work and hard choices.
The good news is that the efforts will be well worth it – because the benefits of a system based on the rule of law extend into every sector of society. Rule of law is the fundamental pillar of stability. It’s necessary to protect the economic and social welfare of citizens. And it’s the most important incentive for fueling a prosperous market economy - the rule of law gives people reasonable confidence that their hard work and investment are more likely than not to pay off… and lets individuals’ natural ingenuity flourish.
The security partnership “way forward” also includes more specific considerations – like determining appropriate roles for Albania and Macedonia within the broader NATO framework. There’s a lot of talk about the importance of “interoperability” – operating seamlessly together on the battlefield. Realistically, the US defense budget far exceeds those of even our very close allies – and even the GDPs of many of our close partners. So “interoperability” can’t mean that allies all buy exactly the same things – that’s just not going to be possible. Instead, it means thinking about capabilities in terms of broad portfolios, and making sure that all the pieces fit.
For many countries, it means developing niche capabilities that are in high demand by a transforming NATO. Albania is developing a deployable Rapid Reaction Brigade, as well as other deployable capabilities including MPs, EOD, Special Forces, engineers, and medical support. Macedonia is focusing on Special Forces, MPs, and rotary-wing assets. These are very welcome steps – because they are needed niche capabilities in NATO.
President Ronald Reagan said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We don’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” That’s the mission we all share today – all of our nations, working together with a common vision.
I do thank you, Minister Mediu, and Minister Elenovski, for your own personal commitments to freedom and liberty. You are both quite exceptional. As we had breakfast together yesterday, I was thinking… The oldest of you is 40 years old, and the youngest is even younger. I wondered what I’d been doing at that age. And then I remembered that I’m 30 years older, and I’m still not a Minister of Defense!
Thank you for what you have accomplished so far, and what you will still achieve. It is an absolute pleasure to be here today with both of you.