Jaap de Hoop Scheffer: "We have to ensure that the Afghanistan mission is on the right track"
Speech by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, at the 44th Munich Security Conference
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me start by saying a sincere word of thanks to you, Horst Teltschik. This is the last Security Conference under your able chairmanship. You are only the second chairman since Ewald von Kleist founded it 46 years ago. This testifies not only to your own sterling reputation, and your drive and imagination, but also, to the special and unique nature of this event. So I wish you well and look forward to working with your successor.
The “Wehrkunde”, as we still all call this conference, means the “study of defence”. And we gather here in Munich each February to analyze not only the nature of the challenges we face, but also to assess – always candidly, always objectively – how we are doing and what remains to be done. As NATO looks to its Bucharest Summit in April, I believe there are four key things that we have to get right.
First we have to ensure that the Afghanistan mission is on the right track so there is not just the reality but also the perception of progress in our parliaments and publics.
Second, we have to integrate the Balkans more firmly into Euro-Atlantic structures and keep the door of Euro-Atlantic integration open to the new democracies on this continent.
Third, we must develop our ability to interact and cooperate with other players, such as the UN, the EU, the World Bank, and the NGOs. Security doesn’t last without reconstruction, development, good governance and political reconciliation.
So a comprehensive approach is more than just a noble objective; we need to actually apply it in practice.
And fourth, NATO cannot stay on the sidelines as new threats to our populations emerge – including threats close to home. Proliferation of WMD, but also of missile technology, terrorism, cyber attacks and vulnerabilities in our energy supply lines are collective challenges, and we must provide collective responses to them.
First, Afghanistan. In a number of areas, such as helicopters, intra-theatre transport, manoeuvre battalions and training the Afghan National Army, we have still not been able to fill the current shortfalls. We must. We must also look more creatively at pooling capabilities, pooling resources, to get the equipment we need to the places we need them.
We have also seen from recent operations such as in Musa Qala that Afghan soldiers, when properly trained and equipped, can take the lead and prevail. So we must redouble our efforts and meet our targets for standing up the Afghan National Army. It is their country. The sooner they can stand on their feet, the better for us all.
But we can only prevail in Afghanistan if all of the Allies are working together on the basis of one NATO strategy, with common goals, common benchmarks and maximum flexibility in the use of our forces. Let us remember the wise words of a former SACEUR: one team – one mission: in together, out together”. Yesterday, in Vilnius, I saw an Alliance united in this mission for the long term. I expect that to be reconfirmed at the Bucharest Summit, where we should also lay out a roadmap for the future of our mission.
One more observation about our presence in Afghanistan. The International Community and the Afghan Government must work together on the basis of shared universal values and mutual respect.
For us in NATO that means that we accept to be criticized when we are not careful enough to avoid civilian casualties and that we adapt our military procedures (and that we have done). It also means that there should be understanding from our Afghan friends that we have great difficulty to accept a death sentence for a young journalist for downloading an article from the Internet.
Public support in our societies for our soldiers' presence in Afghanistan will erode if we do not agree on the universal values we are defending, together with our Afghan friends. This is all about hearts and minds, here and at the Hindu Kush.
Let me now turn to what I call Europe’s unfinished business – the Balkans. The days and weeks ahead will be complicated as we seek finally to resolve the issue of Kosovo’s status. NATO stands ready to ensure that Kosovo remains stable and a place where both Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs can co-exist peacefully. But it is also important that we create a new dynamic in the region. The peoples of the region deserve better than the endless repetition of old ethnic arguments and territorial turf wars.
That is why I hope at our Bucharest Summit Allies will be ready to open NATO’s door to new members from this region, and to reach out to new partners such as Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina who have made it clear that they too do not want to be left behind. We must also make clear to Serbia that there is no viable future in a retreat into sullen nationalism. Its future too lies in Euro-Atlantic integration. But it takes two to tango, and Serbia must demonstrate that it accepts the responsibilities of a modern European democracy. NATO is ready to do its part to engage Serbia and make it not only a partner in principle but a partner in reality as well.
We have seen in the Balkans how much progress we have been able to make when the major organisations have a common stake and a more or less equal commitment to a particular mission. That’s why I will continue to urge a comprehensive approach. I am hopeful that in the near future NATO and the UN will sign a common declaration which will expand and intensify our cooperation.
Regulars here at the Munich Conference have heard me talk often enough about the impediments to better cooperation between NATO and the EU.
But the imminence of the EU deploying its ESDP mission to Kosovo as well as the EU’s police training mission in Afghanistan, remind us that it makes sense for both organisations to have better instruments for coordination. We must lift the remaining political hurdles, a task requiring the highest political attention in NATO and EU capitals. I very much welcome President Sarkozy’s initiative not only to bring France closer to NATO, to have France take its full place in the Alliance again, but also to bring the EU and NATO closer together. Complementarity should be the keyword here.
Let me address my final theme. NATO has always been seen by our publics as the organisation which defends them. But our publics quite rightly ask what NATO is doing to deal with issues which are closer to home than Kunduz. If you are an Estonian, you are clearly worried about the recurrence of massive cyber attacks; if you are British or Spanish or Turkish and have witnessed major terrorist attacks on your territory, you obviously wonder what is coming next; and many in Europe might ask how to cope if energy supplies are disrupted.
That is why I have long been calling for NATO to look seriously at these issues; not because I believe that NATO has all the answers – indeed tackling these challenges requires a multifaceted approach and a great deal of coordination between national governments and international organisations. But I do believe that given the threats these challenges pose, they are a legitimate topic of debate for the Alliance. Indeed, you would be alarmed if you discovered that NATO was not debating these issues. That is why I hope and expect that at Bucharest we will define a clear way forward in areas such as missile defence, energy security and cyber defence. We must not simply produce analyses where we all agree that these threats are real or even growing, and then refuse to identify appropriate responses.
We need to come up with collective responses. Not doing so would simply open the door for individual allies to seek out bilateral or other arrangements – and that would threaten the indivisibility of allied security.
That is why, when it comes to missile defence, I am pleased to see that everybody sees the advantage of having this discussion where it belongs: in NATO. We agree on the threat, we agree on the feasibility, now we have to take the discussion further.
Of course this also touches on our relations to Russia. We invited President Putin to attend a NATO Russia Council in Bucharest. We all agree that we want to use the NATO-Russia Council to constructively engage with the Russian Federation. While there are issues we presently cannot find agreement on – only to mention Missile Defence, CFE, Kosovo – we continue our valuable, practical co-operation in many areas of common interest. To engage is the key word.
One final point: A year ago; from this platform, I called for thinking to begin on a new Strategic Concept for NATO. I still feel that we need soon to start work to prepare the ground. There are some important questions that need to be debated. How should we see Article 5 in the 21st century? What is the right balance between expeditionary missions and protecting our populations at home? What is the future of NATO’s partnerships?
These are important questions. I know NATO well enough by now to be sure that the Alliance is strong enough to have these debates, and emerge stronger from them.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends.
The difficulties that I have outlined here today are not a threat to NATO; they are a positive challenge that we are fully capable of meeting. Our Bucharest Summit will show the way, but we cannot rest on our laurels. Our 60th Anniversary next year is not an occasion for simply re-living past glories. It must demonstrate to our publics that NATO is every bit as vital to security in the 21st century as it was in days long gone by - when we first developed the pleasant habit of coming to Munich every February for the “Wehrkunde”.