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Solana Highlights NATO's Decade of Change

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Jan. 21, 1998 – "NATO has not just reacted to history, we have shaped it," Secretary General Javier Solana told academic, government and military officials in Sweden Jan. 19.

"Through the alliance's cooperative and constructive approach, almost all countries in the Euro-Atlantic area are now bound together in a common commitment to a more peaceful, stable future," he said.

A new Euro-Atlantic security architecture is becoming visible, and cooperation among NATO members and non-NATO nations is key to shaping the security environment, Solana said. "Simply put, managing Euro-Atlantic security remains a team effort. It is a challenge that far exceeds the capabilities of individual nations," he said.

Solana spoke at the Folk Och Forsvar conference in Salen, Sweden, and highlighted changes that have forged new bonds between NATO and non-NATO members. Sweden, for example, while not a member of the 16-nation mutual defense alliance, is a member of NATO's Partnership for Peace and has contributed troops to NATO's peacekeeping mission in Bosnia.

On the day of Solana's speech, NATO officials said Swedish daily newspaper Svenska Dagbladet reported 47 percent of the Swedes responding to a recent poll opposed NATO membership, while 31 percent favored it, and the rest were undecided.

Swedish Foreign Minister Iena Hjolm-Wallen told Solana her nation will participate in a post-stabilization force provided it is a broadly multinational force that includes the United States, NATO officials said.

Solana told the Swedish audience the 1990s has been a decade of change for the security alliance. NATO authorities have changed policies, strategies and structures. While the new strategic environment imposed some changes, he said, others were made to help transform European security at large.

The new close relationship between NATO members and nonmembers is the most visible sign of the new NATO, Solana said. During the past year, NATO invited new members to join the alliance, developed a new partnership with Russia, enhanced relations with Ukraine and increased cooperation with Partnership for Peace countries, he said.

In December, NATO authorities signed documents necessary for the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to become members. Alliance officials hope to induct the three nations during NATO's 50th anniversary in 1999. They would be the first new members in decades, but not the last, according to the secretary general.

NATO enlargement is a process, not a one-time event, Solana stressed. NATO will remain open to all European democracies capable of meeting alliance obligations, he said. "It is a serious and solemn undertaking, bringing with it both rights and obligations, none greater than the commitment to collective defense that has made NATO so successful as a military alliance."

Fears that NATO enlargement would alienate and destabilize Russia proved to be unfounded, Solana noted. He said NATO authorities refused to forgo enlargement to keep Russia on the road to reform. They proceeded, believing the Russian desire to cooperate was as genuine as NATO's, Solana said.

"History has shown how right we were," he said. "NATO's enlargement and a solid relationship with Russia are not mutually exclusive."

NATO and Russian authorities signed The Founding Act in May, "showing how the new Europe, NATO and Russia are destined to cooperate," Solana said. A council was set up for high-level meetings, and a three-star Russian military representative is now based in Brussels. "This provides a permanent point of contact to allow the military to get to know each other in practical day-to-day dealings," Solana said.

NATO and Russian authorities also agreed to a joint work program for 1998 that includes peacekeeping, arms control, counterproliferation, exchanges on weapons safety and security, scientific cooperation, and civil emergency planning and disaster relief.

"While we are opening a new chapter in NATO-Russia relations, we are not giving Russia a direct say in alliance decision-making," Solana said. "Our relationship with Russia will in no way overshadow our relationship with our other partners."

Partnership for Peace countries have become more involved in planning and executing group activities, Solana said. Sweden, for example, took part in 15 NATO-Partnership exercises and hosted three, he noted. Sweden also set up a regional training center open to all partners.

Solana said the Euro-Partnership Council enhances political and security consultations between NATO and Partnership for Peace countries. Opportunities for all to work together closely have never been greater, he said.

"Just as a workable European security architecture without NATO is inconceivable, so is a NATO without partners," Solana said. "With the various interlocking security-enhancing mechanisms I have described, no country or region in Europe should feel that it is excluded."

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