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The Enduring, Dynamic Relationship That Is NATO
Remarks by Secretary of Defense William J. Perry , Wehrkunde, Munich (Germany), Sunday, February 05, 1995

One year ago, less than 24 hours after being sworn in as U.S. secretary of defense, I got on a plane and flew to Munich to attend the Wehrkunde Conference. I did this to demonstrate the centrality of the trans-Atlantic alliance to American security policy. That verity has not changed. But today I want to talk about how our alliance has changed and how it must continue to change.

We have an enduring relationship, but also a dynamic one.

For the past 45 years the United States and Western Europe have been bound together by the obligations of a bipolar world. While our nations had a history of political, economic and cultural ties, NATO during the Cold War was not a fraternity. It was a practical, pragmatic security arrangement, with a military alliance at its core.

Our relationship was based on mutual self-interest. American forces were not in Europe as a favor to the Europeans. We were here because vital American interests demanded that we be here. At the same time Western Europe welcomed the U.S. presence, not because it liked having foreign troops on its soil, but because the U.S. presence was a shield against Soviet aggression. You could say we were stuck with each other.

Today we're not stuck together. With the end of the Cold War the bipolar world has collapsed along with its obligations. The United States and Europe no longer need each other to defend against a Warsaw Pact threat.

None of us have our national survival threatened anymore, but all of us -- North Americans and Europeans -- have decided that we are better off facing the uncertainties and security challenges of the future together.

But even such an association carries obligations for its members. At the NATO summit in January 1994, President [Bill] Clinton reaffirmed that the United States is in Europe to stay, with a substantial military presence of about 100,000 troops. But the U.S. presence in Europe, and our commitment to Europe's security, comes with one key obligation: We must be able to sustain public support for it, both in Europe and at home.

We cannot take that support for granted. Indeed, a number of questions have been raised over the future of NATO -- even whether the alliance should have a future. I believe these questions spring in large part from an information vacuum, created by a failure to make a clear case to our people why NATO remains valuable, even critical, and where it is headed.

We must fill this information vacuum. To do so I believe we must address four key questions: First, what is the purpose of NATO today? Second, where are we going, particularly in terms of expansion? Third, how do we maintain the consensus of the alliance? And finally, what should NATO's relationship with Russia be?

To address the first question I observe that the purpose of NATO has changed dramatically these past few years. For the first time in half a century Western Europe as a whole faces no single, overriding threat. But that does not mean there are no threats to NATO nations.

While we must focus on Russia and the East, real, immediate challenges to NATO allies have been mounting in the South. Flash points have emerged in the Mediterranean, in Southwest Asia, in the Balkans and in North Africa. We must all come to grips with the threats to our interests posed by the growth of instability and extremism in North Africa and elsewhere. This is not just a Southern European problem. The conflict in Bosnia, for example, threatens to destabilize Southern Europe with a flow of refugees or a spread of the fighting. And the aggressive stance of Iraq and Iran threatens Turkey. To date NATO has not effectively faced these challenges.

The NATO defense ministers met in Seville [Spain] last September and again in December in Brussels [Belgium]. We discussed the ongoing crisis in Bosnia. At our December meeting we proposed a concrete course of action to strengthen the UNPROFOR [U.N. Protection Force] forces in Bosnia, but no action has been taken yet on that proposal. In Seville we also discussed Mediterranean security issues. But we were unable to agree on what, if anything, NATO should do about them. Some allies are reluctant to divert increasingly scarce resources; others are reluctant to get the alliance involved in nontraditional military threats.

The spread of instability across the Mediterranean not only threatens friendly regimes in North Africa and the prospects for a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. It also threatens Europe with new social and security problems, such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. I would urge alliance members to focus on the Mediterranean region at our next ministerials and consider a number of questions. Let me list some of these questions which I believe are crucial to our planning.

How should NATO engage the responsible states of North Africa in a security dialogue and relationship? I note that some of our nations already have bilateral security contacts with the North African nations; how do we extend this most effectively to NATO?

A number of nations in and on the periphery of the Balkan tinderbox have joined Partnership for Peace. How can we in NATO best use this channel to intensify our engagement with these nations and improve their relations with one another? The alliance has already begun an important new initiative to deal with proliferation focused globally. How should we give a special emphasis to proliferation in the southern region?

And finally, closer to home, how can we continue to use NATO to build trust and improve relations in the Aegean, where differences between Greece and Turkey pose additional risks for stability in the Balkans?

All of these questions are rooted in NATO's traditional role to protect the security of alliance members. But they reflect equally the alliance's important new role in post-Cold War era. We talk casually of NATO as the world's most successful military alliance because of its success in countering the Soviet threat. Yet in the process we have built something grander. Today NATO is a great, unified force for stability in a fragmented, unstable world.

Membership in NATO has greatly reduced, if not always eliminated, the chance of war among its members, which include some traditional adversaries. Thanks to NATO a large portion of the world is in a zone of stability, posing no threat to its own people or the rest of the globe. It took us 45 years to create this zone of stability, and we did it by maintaining four key principles:

First of all, collective defense. Under Article 5, it's all for one and one for all. But more importantly, we each have the forces and integrated structure to defend one and all.

The second important principle is democracy. NATO is not just any 16 nations. It's 16 of the world's strongest, most successful democracies. We cherish peace and freedom. We protect human rights inside our borders, respect sovereignty outside our borders and seek to maintain peaceful relations with our neighbors. We thrive on free enterprise, and our military forces are under civilian control.

Third principle is consensus. A NATO decision represents a unanimous agreement by 16 nations, each with its own proud history, culture and traditions. We don't agree on everything. But when we sit down together, we hammer out our differences on security matters and forge a consensus.

And the fourth critical principle is cooperative security. Our forces train together and plan together. We disclose our defense budgets, have a commonality in doctrine and share some of the same weaponry. Because we can join forces effectively, few question our power to defend the alliance.

These are the cornerstones of the zone of stability. And this zone is why, when NATO set up the Partnership for Peace, so many nations rushed to sign up, including all but one of the nations of the former Soviet empire. There are now 40 flags flying at the Partnership Coordination Cell in Mons [Belgium], including the flag of Russia.

And it is why, whenever the forces of NATO nations join together, they are highly effective. We saw this in Desert Storm. We saw it in northern Iraq, where we were protecting the Kurds from Saddam [Hussein]'s aggression. And, yes, we see it also in Bosnia, where NATO's actions have significantly limited the violence and bloodshed even though they have not succeeded in bringing about peace to that country.

Bosnia is an example of the challenges the alliance faces in the post-Cold War world and what we can accomplish.

As we met here last year a mortar attack on a Sarajevo marketplace brought forth cries for international action. Building on the success of the no-fly zone, NATO quickly issued an ultimatum calling for an end to the bombardment of Sarajevo and the withdrawal of heavy weapons or face NATO air strikes. That ultimatum worked. And it worked because we were ready, because we had the capability, because we had the will, because all of the parties knew that. And it taught us an important, positive lesson: A precise definition of the desired results supported by achievable military missions can bring NATO influence to bear even in support of peacekeeping efforts.

But we have also learned negative lessons from Bosnia. And here, Bihac stands as a powerful cautionary tale. The U.N. was unable to stop the fighting in Bihac. Indeed, for many weeks it was unable even to resupply the beleaguered Bangladeshi UNPROFOR battalion in the region. In spite of it, NATO was not asked to act because the U.N. feared that air strikes would invite retaliation against its soldiers on the ground. While the dual key arrangement with the U.N. was created for understandable political reasons, a heavy price in NATO's credibility has been paid for violating the basic military tenet of unified command and control.

The broader lesson learned from this experience has to do with where we take NATO, what we commit NATO to doing, either in limited military operations or expansion of security guarantees.

That leads me then to the second question: Where does NATO go from here, particularly on the question of expansion?

Many Partnership for Peace nations say they want to join NATO. The alliance welcomes expansion. As President Clinton said, the question is not whether expansion will happen, but when and how. This year the alliance is focused on the "how" question and has a study under way to answer that question. By the end of the year we expect to present the results both to countries interested in joining NATO and those who merely want to know the direction of NATO's future.

As we consider the expansion question I believe we need to refer back to, and bear in mind, those four principles which I have just mentioned that have made NATO the strongest, most successful alliance in history.

Now if we apply those four principles to the question of expansion, we get the following analysis:

First, the new members must be prepared to defend the alliance and have the capable, professional military forces to do it. There can be no free riders. At the same time NATO must be prepared to come to the defense of any new member. That is not an abstract concept. It is a commitment of lives and treasure. And it suggests to me that new members must commit themselves to joining NATO's integrated military structure. Expansion must not mean the dilution of the effectiveness of the alliance.

Applying the second principle, new members must uphold democracy and free enterprise, protect freedom and human rights inside their borders, and respect sovereignty outside their borders. And their military forces must be under civilian control.

Applying the third principle, NATO, even with an enlarged membership, must continue to work by consensus. New NATO members won't have to agree on everything, but they must respect the proud history, culture and traditions of all members. And they must be willing to hammer out differences on security matters in a spirit of cooperation. We must not import instability into the alliance.

And fourth, the military forces of the new members must be capable of operating with NATO's military forces. This means being open with defense budgets and plans, having commonality with NATO defense doctrine and having commonality on some equipment, especially communication equipment.

These principles should not be regarded as hurdles to NATO membership. Rather they are guarantees that the alliance, at whatever size, maintains its effectiveness, military capability and political cohesion.

In fact, it is because of our commitment to these principles that we want the new democracies of Europe to take full advantage of the Partnership for Peace.

The partnership draws NATO's neighbors closer to the alliance and gives them a chance to pick up NATO's habits of consensus and military cooperation. In the meantime their militaries can train with NATO forces for peacekeeping and other noncombat missions. Partnership gives nations concrete proof of NATO's concern with their security. All of this will serve to build trust, confidence and stability in the region.

The partnership has accomplished a lot in its first year. The headquarters are up and running. The three exercises last year between NATO and partner nations were a success, and we have 20 more planned for this year. But these activities cost money. Partner nations must foot most of the bill, but many of them have severe resource problems and need help.

President Clinton has asked the U.S. Congress to provide $100 million to help our partners take full advantage of the partnership opportunities. We urge our allies to provide comparable bilateral assistance. This is a worthwhile investment in European security.

And for those nations seeking NATO membership, partnership is the essential steppingstone.

That leads to my third question: Given that NATO will grow beyond 16 nations, how can we maintain the consensus of the alliance?

Even at 16 nations facing a monolithic threat, we've sometimes had to work hard to reach unanimous agreement on a course of action. You don't have to be a mathematician to see the problem of getting unanimous agreement increases as we add more NATO members. And in the future the security threats to Europe are less likely to be direct and clear or to confront NATO members with the prospect of a direct attack. This will make unanimous decision even harder to reach.

We need to examine this consensus question. One way of dealing with this issue, right now, is by completing the

development of the Combined Joint Task Force concept. This will allow WEU [Western European Union] or a coalition of willing members to team up, draw on NATO assets and procedures, and respond to contingencies such as crisis management, peacekeeping and humanitarian missions. But all the time, keeping in mind the principles of separable, but not separate forces, the CJTF concept is critical for NATO's future, and we should get on with it and on with it this year.

But no discussion of NATO's future can ignore my fourth question today: What does it mean for relations with Russia?

In dealing with this question we must first of all consider Russia's interests and concerns. Russia is critical to building a stable European future. We have an enormous stake in the outcome of Russia's transition in the post-Soviet era, and we must continue to support Russian reform. Our most fervent desire is for a free, stable, democratic Russia in Europe.

This is one reason why we have been appalled by Russia's tactics in Chechnya, apart from the human tragedy involved. These tactics are a step backwards. While we recognize the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation, we call upon the Russian government to respect human rights. And we support the efforts of the OSCE [Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe] and other bodies to promote a peaceful settlement.

We need to be clear and open with Russia about our intentions for NATO. Russian officials have asked, for example, why should they welcome the expansion of an organization initially designed to fight them? We must assure Russia that NATO, while always a defensive alliance, has left the Cold War behind and moved on to dealing with the new era. We must make clear to Russia what the post-Cold War NATO is and what it is not.

NATO is a defensive alliance committed to ensuring more security and stability for Europe as a whole, and that includes Russia. NATO is not an alliance against Russia. We urge Russia to judge NATO by its basic principles: collective defense, democracy, consensus and cooperative security. Russia should judge NATO by what it is now, not through the prism of the Cold War.

We have begun a dialogue with Russia about its role in European security and its relationship with NATO. This NATO-Russia dialogue will follow a parallel track with NATO's own dialogue about its future, and it's a serious priority. The NATO-Russian dialogue track complements the track of NATO expansion, even while it's independent of the expansion issue.

To pursue this parallel track we need to define with Russia in the coming months the what, how and why of a longer-term relationship with NATO. Right now a set of plans for Russia's cooperation within and outside of Partnership for Peace awaits their signature. We should build on these plans. For example, we could have a formal arrangement -- perhaps eventually codified in a memorandum of understanding or a charter -- for a number of cooperative arrangements.

These arrangements might include a continuing dialogue on a variety of subjects, such as counterproliferation, cooperation on defense technology, transparency in defense policymaking, crisis management, and peacekeeping doctrine and tactics.

It would be useful to establish some sort of standing consultive commission to provide formal structure of our NATO-Russia relationship.

Our consultations should give input into each other's decision-making, and we should cooperate in implementing our decisions. Of course, all the while we would each respect the other's independence.

One place consultations might begin is by affirming some rules of conduct for European security. We could jointly appraise the European security environment or set up mechanisms to consult on future Bosnia-type crises. This process would give a more formal, regular status to NATO-Russian relations. All NATO allies, including the United States, also need to strengthen their bilateral dialogues with Russia.

Whatever we decide, NATO is committed to keeping Russia fully informed. There will be no surprises, and Russia will not be isolated. We urge Russia to fully participate in this dialogue and in the Partnership for Peace. And if it does, Russia will see more clearly that far from drawing new security divisions in Europe, NATO wants to erase what lines remain.

This is a critical time in the history of our alliance. Times have changed. The basis for NATO has changed. We're no longer bound together in common defense against a single common enemy. But we still face real threats, both immediate and on the horizon. And we have a historical opportunity to expand the zone of stability in Europe. As we adapt Europe (NATO) for the next century, we must deal with the tough questions and issues raised by our new relationship.

On the table behind my desk at the Pentagon is an American flag, the last Stars and Stripes to fly over Clay Barracks, the headquarters of the U.S. forces in Berlin. I received this flag last fall after it was furled during a ceremony marking the departure of U.S. forces from Clay Barracks and the city they had called home for so many years.

The ceremonies ending the allied presence in Berlin were historic, memorable and deeply moving. I cannot ever recall a time in history when the citizens of an "occupied" city actually shed tears when the occupying troops left. That flag in my office is a vivid reminder of the role that America has played in the security and freedom of Europe and the friends that we still have here.

But that flag also reminds me that times have changed, that the basis of our relationship has changed and that, together, we must seize this moment to launch NATO into the next century.


Published for internal information use by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Washington, D.C. Parenthetical entries are speaker/author notes; bracketed entries are editorial notes. This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission.