“NATO’S NEW STRATEGIC CONCEPT:
THE ITALIAN VISION”
(University of Vilnius, 7 September 2009)
(Please check against text as delivered)
Mr Foreign Minister,
Distinguished Professors and Authorities,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be able to address you here today at the University of Vilnius – one of Central-Eastern Europe’s oldest academic institutions – and to speak on a subject, the future of NATO, that I know is particularly close to the heart of Lithuania.
For 60 years NATO has been a byword for freedom, solidarity and indivisible security between Europe and North America. On this side of the Atlantic, after a long post-war period of “cold peace”, Europe has at last been reunified. We have seen the walls that divided us tumble down, the symbols and doctrines of totalitarianism collapse, the wind of freedom and democracy blow throughout the continent. The celebration of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall this November will remind us of the value of a united Europe and rekindle our awareness of the common destiny shared by all its peoples.
An awareness expressed by Lithuania and also by Latvia and Estonia, again 20 years ago when you organised one of the longest human chains in history: the Baltic Way. A peaceful demonstration to assert your identity and express a yearning for freedom. A gesture to say that Europe could not be “whole and free” without including your peoples too. But without NATO it would not have been possible to reunite the family of European nations. Without a sound and lasting Alliance, without the continuity of the American presence in Europe, we would have seen a different Europe: a more vulnerable and turbulent Europe. As it had been in the past.
Today, 60 years on, the Atlantic Alliance’s core business is still the same as at the outset: producing security. NATO, in other words, is still a powerful and effective political and military alliance of democracies. Although its fundamental objective has not changed since 1949, the international scenario in which the Alliance has to carry out its functions looks completely different. That is why, by approving the “Declaration on Alliance Security” at the Strasbourg Kehl Summit, the heads of state and government undertook to begin the process of reviewing the 1999 Alliance’s Strategic Concept.
In recent years, NATO has already reacted pragmatically to changing circumstances and new demands: only think of our commitment in Afghanistan or against piracy. But we need a new manifesto that develops the Alliance’s strategic vision of the 21st century in clear terms for the policy makers and the public opinion, both within and outside the Euro-Atlantic context. In this respect, the Strategic Concept will be also, more than ever before, an instrument of public diplomacy. We cannot operate, in Europe or elsewhere, without explaining “who we are and what we are doing”. We also need a “guide” on NATO’s role, potentiality and level of ambition to refer to in order to determine the necessary resources and capabilities for it to perform its functions to best effect. This is the overall meaning of the Alliance’s new Strategic Concept which we will soon be writing together.
Starting from these considerations, in the Italian vision NATO’s new Strategic Concept should aim to sketch out a framework for an Alliance that acts as a hub of international security. Not a “global policeman” but an organisation that is able to take its place within a global network of security producers who are able to cooperate fruitfully for the good of all. From this perspective, the priority questions that deserve to be examined in greater depth in the debate on the new Strategic Concept seem to be essentially six in number.
(1) Up-dating the concept of security: NATO in defence of its citizens – In the last twenty years the concept of security has changed profoundly and NATO needs to take this into account. Allow me first of all to underline that article 5 is and remains a firm and indisputable point of reference, but cannot be restricted to simply defending a “territory”. Today security has a wider reach, witness terrorist attacks on our cities or potential threats to vital information networks or energy supplies. Protecting our borders from external aggression remains a key concept, but it is by no means exhaustive. The European dimension of security is still vital, but national security cannot be longer guaranteed only by the static protection of the Atlantic Alliance “area”, as in the Cold War.
Today, to help our citizens feel truly secure, we also need to respond to threats from afar. We need to engage in international peace missions far from home. The borderlines between personal, national and international security have become noticeably more faint. The threats we need to defend ourselves from often appear as cross-cutting, with no defined boundaries: terrorism, nuclear proliferation, cyber attacks, illegal trafficking, organised crime and piracy, to name but some.
In such a complex and interdependent world, it would be limiting to discuss the notion of security that is to be set into the new Strategic Concept by developing an ideological contraposition between the advocates of a Euro-centric vision of Article 5 and those who fell more keenly that security needs to be produced through out-of-area missions. We must walk away from an artificial debate opposing static defence of the territory and defence at a strategic distance. It would be misleading to security consumers – our people. Security is an indivisible asset, in the Baltic as in the Mediterranean. Our main concern must above all be human security: the wholesale defence of our citizens from threats that can develop near home or far from our borders. That is why we need to forge consensus on a comprehensive notion of Article 5, which should be understood not just as the defence of a territory but, more generally, of the allied populations’ overall security.
(2) Re-asserting the trans-Atlantic bond: NATO as a community of values – NATO is and must continue to be the political and institutional link between the two sides of the Atlantic, the cohesion of which is crucial. NATO’s success and longevity are rooted in a community of nations that share fundamental ideals and interests and show a common assessment of the threats to face. This shared identity underpins the principle of consensus that governs the functioning of the Alliance and should be understood not as the capacity of each to block the whole, but as the willingness of each member State to find a common position. These aspects are crucial and remain current and important in relation also to the new Strategic Concept, where they should be reflected in an appropriate manner.
That said, it is clear that the transatlantic relationship needs to be constantly nurtured and up-dated if we want to keep it alive and well. The splits in 2003 over Iraq remind us how harmful the consequences of a division can be, when what is at stake is international security. Now that that wound has been healed, there are some who tend to play down the relevance of the transatlantic relationship and prefer to underscore the importance of a Pacific axis, the Washington-Beijing G2, as the central “format” of international governance. A format that is liable to relegate Europe to the sidelines –from every perspective.
But for Europe the spectre of a US-China G2 must not be an excuse to avoid its responsibilities in addressing global challenges. While it is clear that a “G2 of economic interests” exists between the United States and China, it is equally clear that the “transatlantic G2” is and remains indispensable to international security. We are thinking in particular of the management of the most important regional crises. Never before have the United States and Europe been so closely in tune on crucial dossiers for international security, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan or the Middle East Peace Process. An harmony of views that is having positive repercussions also on NATO and its ability to contribute to global stability.
(3) Developing the “partnership policy”: NATO in the global security architecture – In the new international context in which it now operates, NATO cannot and should not do everything itself, nor can it contemplate acting alone. The Alliance, especially in recent years, has established a wide range of permanent partnerships in different regions and involving a number of actors (currently, more than 60 countries all over the world). It would be timely to reinforce these partnerships further, through more regular political consultations and by involving them, in political and where possible military terms, in the Alliance’s operations. The approach underlying the outreach policy introduced by NATO is simple: if, as is indeed the case, we need to tackle global challenges, then we need global partners. A point that Italy would like to see suitably reflected in the new Strategic Concept, and on which we must give the out-going Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, credit for having taken a far-sighted view.
If we look to our NATO partners, we should note first of all that the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) continues to play a central role. But it will also be important to impart new dynamism to the Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, which involves the Gulf States. We must also go on carefully cultivating our relations with the “contact countries” (Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Republic of Korea) and reflect on whether it is timely to intensify the dialogue with China, albeit with due caution where human and minority rights are concerned. In the wake of the joint NATO-UN declaration signed in 2008, it seems important to intensify our relationship not only with the UN themselves, but also with regional organizations such as the African Union, with which we have already worked well in Somalia and Darfur. We should also enhance our existing dialogue with the Arab League, the International Red Cross and – with regard, for example, to combating illegal trafficking in Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa – with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
(4) Freeing up European energies: NATO and the EU – In this picture of NATO’s partners an ad hoc space should be envisaged, also in the Strategic Concept, for the relationship between the European Union and NATO. A relationship that is still unexpressed and which not even France’s return to the Alliance’s military structure alone can unblock. The collective interest in fully deploying the natural synergy between the EU and NATO’s capabilities continues to be sacrificed on the altar of other interests. Yet it is important to overcome any remaining reluctance to define a relationship of structured institutional collaboration between the European Union and the Alliance. The EU and NATO cannot afford the luxury of not collaborating at the institutional level. Our national defence budgets cannot afford this situation. Our armed forces engaged in difficult, dangerous and complex theatres – from Kosovo to the Indian Ocean to the Hindu Kush – cannot afford it. Both sides of the Atlantic feel the need for closer cooperation between NATO and EU structures to optimise their operational capabilities. In the crisis management field, the ESDP has already demonstrated its capacity for immediate action, for instance last year when it deployed over 200 unarmed monitors in Georgia. Over the past ten years the EU has then contributed to international stability through 22 missions in four continents.
In addition to crisis management, there are many other areas where the EU-NATO collaboration could be particularly fruitful. I will mention just two: maritime security, most notably in combating piracy, and energy security. In the latter respect, the Atlantic Alliance has a specific role in defending infrastructure and supply in the wider sense (sea lanes, not only pipelines), while the EU is working to diversify sources and transit routes and achieve a balanced and mutually advantageous relationship with Russia, which remains a vital supplier for Europe.
(5) Rethinking European security: the NATO-Russia relationship – The new Strategic Concept will also need to mirror the crucial importance of the NATO-Russia relationship. No “European security” will be fully achieved without Russia fully participating in it. Russia needs to have a stake in NATO – as foreseen in Pratica di Mare.
With Moscow, areas of divergence do exist which we cannot simply ignore. On these issues, NATO has been consistent and forthright in its relations with Russia and has drawn some “red lines” that cannot be crossed. These include: refusal to recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia; rejection of spheres of influence; no vetoes on NATO enlargement; no border changes by force.
However, Moscow is a key strategic partner for the Atlantic Alliance, and we have many common security challenges to face together: Afghanistan, terrorism, piracy, non-proliferation. This means that the Alliance’s relationship with Russia should be inspired by cooperation and engagement. In this respect, we need a long-term strategic vision of the NATO-Russia relationship to fully realise the potential for partnership that we share with Russia, and consolidate our existing interdependence. This is an undertaking that NATO’s new Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, also sees as one of his priorities.
Italy is very well aware of the security concerns felt by some Central-Eastern European allies, especially after the Georgia crisis and recognises that it is vital to take them into due consideration. The Alliance would be failing in its original objective if it did not continue to pay the closest possible attention to European security. At the same time, Italy and the whole of Europe know very well, through direct experience, that security based on trust is highly preferable to security based on confrontation.
Any difference and concern vis-à-vis Moscow must not, therefore hold us back from engaging in a constructive dialogue with Russia. They must not become an excuse to keep the entire NATO-Russia relationship on hold. That is why Italy feels it is so vitally important to re-launch the work of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC). The NRC should be viewed as a forum to discuss not just questions offering points of convergence with Moscow, but also those where there are clear divergences. Moscow recently sent out positive signals as to its commitment to making the NRC work, and advanced a number of concrete proposals. Foremost of these was the creation of a special working group on Afghanistan, a proposal that Italy views favourably.
Italy is also convinced that from a medium-to long-term perspective the goal in relations between Russia and the West should be to build a “security community”. The debate already opened within the OSCE on a new European security architecture might represent the first step in that direction and Lithuania, which will hold the OSCE Presidency in 2011, could play a valuable role in this respect. Any agreement between Washington and Moscow on the missile shield could be another important step in widening the scope of our security, without, however, creating any cracks in the pillars upon which it rests.
(6) Learning from the Afghanistan test-case: NATO and the “comprehensive approach” – And now Afghanistan, which I shall address last, but certainly not as a reflection of its importance. On the contrary: its stabilisation is the main challenge for the Alliance as a whole. It is a comprehensive test for the entire international community, since it involves many problem factors, starting, naturally, with the fight against terrorism. Let us not forget: NATO is in Afghanistan also to defend our citizens and the values of our democracies.
Afghanistan is also the type of threat – asymmetric, out-of-area, complex – which we are likely to have to deal in the foreseeable future. The ISAF operation is therefore of vital importance to the Alliance and its credibility. NATO will emerge either strengthened or diminished from Afghanistan. And let us not delude ourselves: a NATO that emerged weakened from Hindu Kush would be less credible in Europe, in the United States and in the rest of the world. That is why it cannot afford to fail. Italy and Lithuania are well aware of this, since our soldiers are cooperating together fruitfully in Afghanistan, within the ISAF Regional Command West. It is also thanks to the commitment of our troops that the conduct of the recent elections has been encouraging for the future of the country. Once their final outcome will be official, Italy would like to see an international conference in Kabul to set up a “new compact” between the new Afghan government and the international community. This initiative will contribute to re-prioritise our objectives in Afghanistan and to develop the Afghan ownership, especially in those areas which have seen limited progress up to now such as governace, corruption and human rights.
In NATO’s new Strategic Concept it will be very important to reproduce the key lessons we have learned in Afghanistan to help us better understand the Atlantic Alliance’s limits and potential in stabilisation operations, one of its key tasks. And the lessons are many: at the political, military and communications strategy levels. But allow me to dwell on the one I consider the most important: the development of a “comprehensive approach”.
As we have experienced in Afghanistan, to stabilise complex areas the military dimension is vital but cannot be the only option: also necessary are civil reconstruction, institution building, economic development, and incentives to trade. Therefore, it appears indispensable to draw the various military and civil dimensions of the crisis together in a single framework and, at the same time, to ensure the greatest possible coordination between all the countries, regional stakeholders and international institutions involved: UN, EU, World Bank, to mention just some.
I would add that recognising the importance to articulate a “comprehensive approach”, a civilian-military platform, should prompt a more ample reflection on which role NATO can play in this context. This is a delicate issue which we must allow to develop in its own time and manner, but which we cannot ignore. Obviously, NATO’s role must be always connected to security aspects, and the Alliance certainly must not infringe on the competences of other organisations or fill up spaces that others have left culpably empty. Within these limits, the Atlantic Alliance must start pondering more broadly the question of which contribution it can make directly or supporting the other international organisations, bearing in mind its experience and capabilities in sectors such as natural disasters, logistical support, civil aviation and police and army training.
This last point is particularly significant. It has become evident to all of us that in order to ensure the stability of particularly complex crisis areas such as Afghanistan, we need to create the conditions for a security framework that local armed and police forces can progressively manage themselves. In Afghanistan, strengthening our commitment in the training of the security forces is a crucial element in order to achieve the conditions that will enable us to put an end to the international presence. In other words, the success of the NATO mission in Afghanistan will take the form not of a military victory, but of a transfer of the primary security responsibilities to the Afghan authorities. In this respect, the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A), where Italy occupies a position because of its substantial contribution to police training, is a step in the right direction. One that we hope will be followed by other, equally important, steps.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
drawing up a new Strategic Concept for NATO is an important exercise that will allow us to guide the future of the Atlantic Alliance. The issues I have examined during my address certainly do not encompass all the questions that will be debated. From the Italian perspective, they represent – however - crucial knots that will need to be untangled through an inclusive and transparent discussion.
As we embark on that discussion we must bear in mind that although in recent years NATO has already undergone a “transformation” that has enabled it to go on providing security in a profoundly changed international context, one dimension has remained intact. A dimension that enables us to describe NATO’s evolution as a shift within a continuum. I am referring to its ideals and to the values of democracy, freedom and the rule of law that inspire the Alliance in its activities. I am referring to solidarity amongst the Allies, our shared political vision and the threats we must guard against. It is important to remember this point, because NATO’s historic success in its first 60 years is due above all to our shared attachment to these principles. And because it is on our ability to keep defending them, in a more volatile and complex international context, that the success of the Alliance will be measured in the years to come.
Thank you very much.