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Six Postulates for a Future NATO
Prepared Remarks of Defense Secretary William J. Perry , Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic, Seminar, Norfolk, Va, Thursday, June 27, 1996

Defense Issues: Volume 11, Number 56-- Six Postulates for a Future NATO NATO is not a social club or fraternity. It's a military alliance. Therefore, potential members must have the professional military forces to defend the alliance.


Volume 11, Number 56

Six Postulates for a Future NATO

Prepared remarks by Defense Secretary William J. Perry to the Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic, Seminar, Norfolk, Va., June 27, 1996.

In June of 1995, just one year ago, I attended the defense ministerial in Brussels. Without question, this was the most dismal NATO meeting I have ever attended. Those of you who were there might share that judgment with me. Bosnia was being ravaged by unspeakable atrocities. The U.N. was being humiliated with its peacekeepers chained to Bosnian-Serb radar.

European nations and the U.S. were at complete odds with each other. At that meeting, the United States was pushing to take robust air action to punish the Serbs for violating U.N. sanctions, and the European nations, with troops on the ground, feared such action would endanger their troops.

As a result, NATO, paralyzed into inaction, was shown to be irrelevant in dealing with the Bosnian crisis. At that meeting, we rightly asked a critical question. If NATO is not relevant to Bosnia, the greatest security crisis in Europe since the end of the [Second] World War, what is it relevant for? In sum, at that meeting, it appeared to me that NATO was in the process of unraveling.

What a difference a year makes. Two weeks ago, I attended its defense ministerial in Brussels. This year, the meeting was one of strength and of hope. The alliance was vibrant and self-confident. The United States and European nations were working together, harmoniously, and NATO was conducting its first military operation and conducting it with great success.

In this heady atmosphere, the defense ministers met, not at 15, but at 16. We were joined by ministers from 26 Partnership for Peace nations, including Russia. We all realized that 1996 had already been a year of truly historic change for NATO. We continued that process of change at that meeting by taking actions that will help build the kind of NATO that Europe will require to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

So today, based on the Brussels meeting, I'd like to offer you a six postulates about what that NATO alliance of the 21st century will look like.

The first postulate is that NATO itself will be stronger and more united.

IFOR [implementation force] is the first major military action in the history of NATO, and it has revitalized the alliance. It has proven that the NATO nations, who have decades of experience exercising and training together and who share common doctrine and standards, can operate together and operate with great effectiveness.

Because of NATO's efforts through IFOR, the nations of the former Yugoslavia are experiencing their first peaceful spring in five years. Today, for all of the problems still in Sarajevo and Mostar [Bosnia], you can go there and, instead of dodging mortars and artillery shells, you see people sipping coffee in the sidewalk cafes. This spirit of solidarity infused the meeting in Brussels as we also welcomed France's full participation in a formal meeting of NATO defense ministers for the first time in 30 years.

The second postulate is that NATO will continue to build a zone of stability throughout the continent through the Partnership for Peace.

The Partnership for Peace, which I will call PfP for short, is now hitting its full stride. In 1996 alone, we will conduct 15 major exercises and scores of other PfP-related activities. These exercises and activities not only help us tackle such post-Cold War military missions as peacekeeping, humanitarian relief, and search and rescue, they also help us foster trust and cooperation between East and West, and among the partner nations themselves.

In Brussels, we sought to strengthen PfP and ensure that it becomes a permanent pillar of Europe's security architecture. We agreed to increase partner participation in planning for exercises, even contingencies. And building on the experiences of PfP nations in IFOR, we agreed to increase the number and complexity of PfP exercises.

In my remarks to my colleagues, I stressed the need for individual NATO nations to build mentor relationships with individual partner countries, particularly those whose resources limit what they would like to do in the partnership for participation. I suggested, for example, that a NATO country or group of countries should consider sponsoring the Polish-Ukrainian peacekeeping battalion in the same way the Danes are sponsoring the Baltic peacekeeping battalion. Others could mentor the South Balkan nations as they seek to implement goals that came from their recent meeting of the South Balkan ministerial meeting or give special assistance to partner countries in defense budgeting, strategic planning. These "in the spirit of PfP" activities strengthen not only the partnership, but also NATO and the security of Europe.

The third postulate is that NATO will be larger.

Enlargement is moving along as planned. Last fall, NATO completed its study on the "how" and "why" of enlargement, and we are now proceeding with the second phase -- conducting intensive consultations with those partner nations interested in joining the alliance -- to help them prepare to meet the criteria and responsibilities of membership. Let me talk about what I see as those criteria.

I'd like to start off by noting that NATO is not a social club. It is not a fraternity. It is a military alliance. And therefore the potential members must be prepared to defend the alliance, and have the professional military forces to do it. NATO must continue to work by consensus -- whether we have 16 or 18 or 20 members. We must continue to work by consensus, and new members must respect this tradition which has allowed this consensus mode to function so effectively in the past.

Military forces of the new members must be capable of operating effectively with NATO forces. This means not only a common doctrine, but interoperable equipment -- especially communications equipment. And potential new members must uphold democracy and free enterprise, respect human rights inside their borders, and respect sovereignty outside their borders, and their military forces must be under democratic, civilian control.

Every time I meet with a partner nation that aspires to NATO membership, I tell them: "This is what you're aspiring to. This is how you will be judged when the NATO ministers meet and judge which of the applicant nations should be considered for membership."

These principles are not set forth as hurdles to NATO membership, but rather guarantees that the alliance will continue to be as effective and capable for the next 50 years, as it has been for almost 50 years. Many partner members have already made great strides to meet these principles, and the intensive consultations we are now engaging in will help them move even further.

My fourth postulate is that NATO will build a cooperative relationship with Russia.

Russia has been a key player in Europe's security for over 300 years. It will remain a key player in the coming decades. The question is only whether it will play a positive role or negative role. Quite clearly, we want Russia to play a positive role, Russia has taken the right step by choosing to participate in the Partnership for Peace. We welcome Russia's participation -- indeed, we hope that Russia will take on a leading role in the partnership commensurate with its role as a great power.

NATO's cooperative relationship with Russia should be in addition to and apart from Russia's participation in the Partnership for Peace. Ironically, the blueprint for this cooperative relationship comes from working together in Bosnia.

Not long ago, I visited the American division in Bosnia that includes the Russian Brigade and met with all of the brigade commanders, including the Russian brigade commander. I can report that the operation is going smoothly, and that the brigade commanders -- the Americans, the Russians, the Nordic, the Turks -- are all working together cooperatively. I will have another chance to see the operation next week when I visit our troops and the troops of other nations in Bosnia over our Fourth of July holiday.

By its participation in IFOR, Russia is demonstrating its commitment to participate in the future security architecture of Europe. In Brussels, we built on this commitment when the NATO defense ministers met with the Russian defense minister in a 16 plus 1 format. At this meeting, we essentially agreed to station Russian officers at SHAPE [Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers Europe] headquarters and at subordinate NATO commands, and Russia agreed that we would send NATO officers to the Russian general staff in Moscow. These arrangements essentially institutionalize the liaison arrangement already created on an ad hoc basis in order to carry out the IFOR operation.

My fifth postulate about NATO in the 21st century is that NATO will be more flexible and more efficient.

As it moves from the one-threat scenario that determined NATO's response and command structure for nearly 50 years, NATO is adopting a mechanism that will reflect NATO's new flexibility to respond to new challenges -- the combined joint task force -- CJTF. We are working hard to complete the CJTF concept, but we already have a CJTF in practice, in Bosnia. So we don't have to spend too much time on the theology of what a CJTF is. We have one in practice working today, and all we have to do is generalize what is already a successful CJTF in operation.

In addition to becoming more flexible, NATO recognizes the need to become more efficient. In many ways, NATO was not well-structured for the Bosnia mission. Our command and decision-making structures were geared almost exclusively toward executing a known plan with already designated forces against a known adversary.

IFOR, on the other hand, involved much greater uncertainty, and it highlighted NATO's need to streamline and modernize. In the fall, our military authorities will issue a report that will make recommendations on how to make the command structure more responsive and flexible and how to adapt the defense planning process.

We are also taking actions to simplify and speed-up the entire decision-making process through the creation of the policy coordination group and the capabilities coordination cell. I have to say that I have some misgivings about these bureaucratic organizations designed to streamline NATO. But just think about that a little bit. The goal is clear even if the mechanism is a little shaky at this stage.

Let me be absolutely clear that the goal of NATO's efforts to become more flexible and efficient is to allow all the allies to work together more effectively. It is not an effort to get by without the full participation of the United States. We need to get better at operating at 16 before we even consider how to operate more effectively at less than 16.

And so this leads me to my sixth and last postulate about NATO's future. NATO will remain a true trans-Atlantic alliance.

I think the clear lesson from Bosnia is that, as a trans-Atlantic alliance, NATO operates best when we are all together. I hope that everybody on both sides of the Atlantic has learned this lesson and that NATO continues to operate together on all of its major missions.

The security of Europe remains critical to the security of the United States. And America's involvement in Europe remains critical to the security of Europe. Forty-nine years ago, George Marshall laid out a vision for Europe in the future -- a Europe united from the Atlantic to the Urals, united in peace, freedom and democracy.

We have it within our grasp to realize that vision. That vision can only be achieved through a strong, vital trans-Atlantic partnership.

I thank you.


Published for internal information use by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant 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. Defense Issues is available on the Internet via the World Wide Web at