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Secretary General Cites NATO Challenges

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Belgium, May 19, 1998 – NATO must be task-oriented and pragmatic to respond to today's challenges and those of the future, according to NATO Secretary General Javier Solana.

"Today, we tend to judge institutions more by what they can actually achieve than by what they represent," Solana told members of the Oxford University Union Society May 13. He told the 175-year-old British debating society that NATO must overcome three challenges to remain relevant in the 21st century.

First, he said, the 16-nation security alliance must undo Europe's historical division by firmly integrating Central and Eastern Europe. "There can be no durable order if the continent remains divided between a prosperous, self-confident West and a stagnant, frustrated East," he said.

NATO's Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council are the strongest impulses for security cooperation that Europe has ever seen and are key to meeting this challenge, Solana said. Nearly 30 nations work with NATO on security consultations, joint crisis management, regional cooperation and humanitarian assistance.

The Partnership for Peace channels practical assistance, and the Euro-Atlantic council is a political forum, he said.

Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia recently sought NATO advice regarding the growing crisis in the Serbian province of Kosovo. At that time, NATO stepped up military assistance through the Partnership for Peace to help Kosovo's two neighbors prevent the crisis from spreading into their territories.

NATO's second challenge is to help Russia find its rightful place in Europe's emerging new architecture. "How Russia settles herself in this new Europe is perhaps the single most important issue of European security today," Solana said.

He said "social engineers" say Russia's future will be determined by Western politics, and "fatalists" say Russia will always try to dominate Europe, but NATO is taking a more pragmatic approach.

"We believe the current transformation of Russia offers major opportunities for new, cooperative relations -- opportunities we must seize," Solana said. "We believe that cooperation with Russia is possible even if we disagree on some specific issues." A peaceful, democratic Europe serves the interests of both NATO and Russia, so both aim to respond effectively to regional crises, nuclear proliferation and civil emergencies, he said. NATO's new relationship with Russia works because both want it to, he stressed. "It works because both NATO and Russia know that despite occasional ups and downs in their relationship, they are destined to cooperate."

NATO's third challenge, Solana said, is to provide stability for those areas of Europe that haven't seen the benefits the end of the Cold War has yielded elsewhere. This includes regions where the end of communism led not to liberation, but to new uncertainty and fear, he said, the Balkans being a case in point.

The Balkans vividly demonstrate that instability prevents European consolidation, he said. NATO's peace effort in Bosnia-Herzegovina has "destroyed the myth that outside involvement can never make a difference in this conflict-prone region," he asserted.

Solana said the specter of war also looms in Kosovo, where the ethnic-Albanian majority seeks independence from Serbia. NATO officials say a diplomatic situation must be found within existing frontiers because Kosovar independence is not an option. "NATO and the international community are not prepared to stand by and watch another part of the former Yugoslavia burn," he said.

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