Center for Strategic Decision Research


NATO's Priorities for the Years Ahead

Ambassador Sergio Balanzino
Deputy Secretary General of NATO

Last year, 1999, was the most challenging year in NATO's history. We undertook the Kosovo campaign and we held our 50th Anniversary Summit in Washington, which marked a major step forward in NATO's ongoing adaptation. Kosovo in particular proved a crucial challenge: politically, morally, and militarily. But we mastered this challenge by stopping the violence and by creating the basis for a self-sustaining peace, which will be managed by the international civil organizations.

Now, at the outset of the 21st century, we must build on this positive momentum, which in practical terms means that we must successfully conclude the tasks we have set for ourselves in the Balkans and carry forward NATO's process of adaptation. Indeed, this is what we did at our recent Ministerial meeting in Florence. There are the six areas which NATO has set as top priorities in the years ahead, and I will discuss them within the context of the recent Florence decisions.


It is critical that NATO continue to play its full role in stabilizing Bosnia and Kosovo. We must consolidate the peace. We must ensure that this region does have a future-that it does not remain a prisoner of the past. Clearly, the challenges are enormous. As Bernard Kouchner aptly put it, Kosovo suffered 40 years of Communism, 10 years of apartheid, and then one year of ethnic cleansing. Given this history, no one should harbor any illusions that reconciliation between the ethnic groups can be achieved in the short or even the medium term. What counts is that we stay the course: at Florence, the Allies left no doubt about their determination to do so.

Bosnia shows the potential of patient engagement. This country has made significant progress since NATO troops were deployed there in 1995, and it continues to improve. At Florence, we noted the progress made, but we also reminded the leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina to take on greater responsibility for the process of peace implementation. Ultimately, it is they who must decide about their country's place in the wider European security climate.

Ultimately, we must also look beyond Bosnia and Kosovo. We need a comprehensive approach for all of Southeastern Europe. The EU's Stability Pact is a major step forward. And NATO, through its Southeast Europe Initiative, is supporting the Stability Pact, particularly in the security field. Just as the Marshall Plan and NATO kicked off Europe's recovery after World War II, so must economics and security work in tandem to bring lasting stability to Southeastern Europe. In Florence, NATO and its Partners brought this point home very forcefully by pledging their strong support for the Stability Pact.

In Florence, Croatia became a member of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the Partnership for Peace. This heartening development should serve as an example for other countries in the region. It demonstrates that there is no law of nature that condemns Southeastern Europe to permanent instability. On the contrary, it is possible to "de-Balkanize" the Balkans.


NATO's hallmark is military competence. That is what has made the organization so effective, for more than 50 years, in preserving the safety of its members and in defending their interests and values. We must ensure that all Allies have the technology necessary to continue to operate effectively, and to operate effectively together. Kosovo has shown how wide the gap between U.S. and European capabilities has become. This is not healthy. And this is why we are looking at ways to improve our key defense capabilities-to express Alliance solidarity not only politically, but also militarily.

The Defense Capabilities Initiative, which we launched at the Washington Summit, is a big step in the right direction. This project will help to ensure that all NATO Allies will have the military capabilities they need. It will also take steps to improve interoperability among Allied forces. In Florence, our Ministers looked at areas in which NATO's nations still need to make progress, and they agreed that where multinational arrangements (i.e., common funding) would not suffice, the necessary resources would have to be found.


We need to rebalance the transatlantic relationship. Economically, the European Union is on a par with the United States. Yet in security terms, Europe is much lower. This must change. The burdens and responsibilities of managing security must be distributed in a more balanced fashion. That is why we support the development of a European Security and Defense Identity. It will lead to a more mature transatlantic relationship, one more in line with the realities of this new century.

In Florence, we had the opportunity to further clarify NATO's position on ESDI. First, we declared our readiness to enter into discussions with the EU on a substantial agenda of common work, including the definition of modalities for NATO-EU relations. We will also work on practical arrangements for assured EU access to NATO planning capabilities and for EU access to NATO's collective assets. We will work on arrangements for the exchange of information. We will intensify work regarding the participation of non-EU Allies in EU-led operations. In other words, NATO stands ready to provide military planning expertise and to adapt further the Alliance's defense planning system to help enhance European capabilities.


In Florence, Mr. Ivanov, Russia's Foreign Minister, joined us for the first Ministerial meeting of the NATO-Russia Joint Council in over a year. This was an important step forward-a step toward overcoming the artificial restriction of our agenda after Kosovo, and a step towards resuming work on the full range of cooperative activities agreed to under the Founding Act. In short, it was an important push to get beyond the Kosovo syndrome. Because of Florence, we are now able to give the Russia-NATO relationship, in a step-by-step fashion, the depth and substance befitting it.


The links between NATO and its Partners must be strengthened further. Kosovo has demonstrated in very concrete terms the importance of PFP. Our Partners gave us political support during the air campaign and are now with us on the ground in implementing the peace. This shows that PFP and EAPC are added value for our security. Making these links even firmer will be a true investment in our security.

As I pointed out earlier, Croatia became a new Partner in Florence. But we went far beyond ceremonial matters. We also discussed how we can further enhance the Partnership for Peace to improve interoperability and to give our Partners more say in planning and conducting NATO-led peace-support operations. In a similar vein, we discussed ways to use the EAPC as a framework to foster regional security cooperation, for example, in Southeastern Europe or in the Caucasus. And, last but not least, we also welcomed Algeria as a new participant to our Mediterranean Dialogue.


As we continue to deepen our Partnerships, we must not forget that some nations want even more, namely, full membership. Partner countries want integration into Europe. At the moment, there are nine nations that want to become full members of this Alliance. We must respond to their desire. We have said that we will revisit the issue no later than 2002. So, between now and then, we must explore the full potential of the Membership Action Plan and give all the aspirant countries as much support as possible in meeting their reform targets.

At the Florence Ministerial, NATO Foreign Ministers expressed their satisfaction with the nine aspiring countries' strong commitment to the MAP, which was reaffirmed in the Vilnius Declaration of May 19, 2000. I see the Vilnius Declaration as a signal of support for the course NATO has chosen. It is a striking example of how NATO's open-door commitment is having a beneficial effect on European dynamics: it is fostering cooperation all across this continent.


The six priorities noted make up a broad and ambitious agenda which will require much hard work to accomplish. But we are confident that we can do it. Based on my more than six years' experience, having worked with Secretaries General Wörner, Claes, Solana, and now Robertson, I can assure you that this Alliance is rock solid. It remains a key instrument for upholding our interests and our values in an ever more complex world.


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