Center for Strategic Decision Research


NATO's Agenda at the Beginning of the 21st Century

Ambassador Sergio Balanzino
NATO Deputy Secretary General


What I would like to do is to offer you a sneak preview of the main issues NATO leaders will be discussing during upcoming meetings, both from a NATO perspective and regarding the way in which the Alliance will contribute to managing them. I think that perhaps the most photographed individual at the Foreign Ministers' meeting will not be a NATO Foreign Minister. I believe the center of media attention may well be Foreign Minister Svilanovic of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, who will address the meeting of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC). Even the most blasé observer must recognize how important foreign Minister Svilanovic's appearance at the meeting will be. Foreign Minister Svilanovic's decision to accept NATO's invitation to the EAPC meeting closes the door on an era of conflict between NATO and Yugoslavia. With a new, democratic regime in place, Yugoslavia is no longer an outcast-on the contrary, it is becoming a part of the team, beginning to work together with NATO and the other countries of the region to address the security challenges that we all face in the Balkans. The decision on the conditioned and phased release of the Ground Safety Zone (GSZ) on the boundary between Kosovo and FRY was another step in furthering good relations with FRY/Serbia. The last sector of the GSZ is currently being released and the constructive attitude of the Serbs and the positive reaction by the ethnic Albanians are cause for optimism. The Special Representative of the Secretary General, Pieter Feith, and the Personal Representative of EU High Representative Solana, Stephan Lehne, worked hard to facilitate increased dialogue and understanding between the FRY/Serb side and representatives of the ethnic Albanian community in Southern Serbia.

However, there are many other Balkans challenges to address. The ongoing tension in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, for example, is a danger not only to that country's unity, but to the stability of the entire region. NATO supports the efforts of the Macedonian government of national unity to fight extremist violence-but at the same time it is vital that the legitimate concerns of the ethnic Albanian community are recognized and accommodated by the government. That is the only way to a lasting political solution to the conflict.

NATO's leaders will certainly reiterate their opposition to any attempts by Bosnian Croat extremists to undermine peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, or the Dayton Agreements themselves. And they will look at ways to build stronger peace and security in Kosovo, including by providing a secure environment for their November 2001 elections.

All of these are very real challenges. But they must not obscure the overall progress being made in the region. Today, the countries of Southeastern Europe are working together politically, economically, and militarily to build something that their region has not had for far too long: lasting peace, lasting security, and growing prosperity. At our meetings, NATO leaders will reiterate their determination to support this positive trend.


NATO leaders will also discuss ways to ensure that the Alliance remains capable of making two meaningful contributions: improving Allied defense capabilities in general and improving European capacities in particular.

The requirement for NATO to improve its defense capabilities is very clear. We may speak of "crisis management" or "peace support," but these operations still require advanced military capabilities and sometimes, as Kosovo demonstrated, the use of overwhelming force. Today, we need forces that can move fast, adjust quickly to changing requirements, hit hard, and then stay in theatre for as long as it takes to get the job done.

This means that NATO's military forces must be mobile, flexible, effective at engagement, and sustainable in theatre. Kosovo was merely another reminder that to carry out all of NATO's missions, from crisis management to peacekeeping to Partnership for Peace to cooperation to collective defense, our forces must have the necessary capabilities and be able to work together effectively.

The purpose of NATO's Defense Capabilities Initiative (DCI) is to address these challenges. We have already made progress since the initiative was put in place. We have identified NATO's military capabilities that need improvement, and have already improved some. But more needs to be done. At our meetings, the Secretary General will certainly remind leaders that military capability is the heart and soul of the Alliance, and that they must make the necessary investments now if that capability is to be there when it is needed.


The Defense Capabilities Initiative will also interact with the third major issue we will discuss at our upcoming meetings-the development of the European Security and Defense Identity. Indeed, without the right capabilities, the European Union will never be able to play a greater role in the security field. By setting an ambitious Headline Goal, the EU shows it has well understood that delivering on capabilities will be crucial to the success of ESDI.

This concept still creates serious heartburn for some traditional Atlanticists: they fear it will lead to Europe splitting away from North America. Indeed, some people see this project as a plot to marginalize the United States' role in Europe or to weaken NATO.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Every European country in NATO recognizes the vital roles the United States plays in Europe: as an essential crisis manager, as we have seen in the Balkans; as a stabilizing factor in Europe on tough political issues; and as the ultimate guarantor of our collective defense. No one wants that to change.

But that cannot mean that the U.S. must always take the lead for the rest of time or want to do so. Europe understands that in the post-Cold War world, there is no reason to expect the U.S. to manage every crisis in or around Europe, no matter how small or far away, simply because the European countries are incapable of taking the lead themselves.

That is why a European capability to lead, where the Alliance as a whole is not engaged, is not only good for the transatlantic relationship, it is absolutely necessary. It will demonstrate that Europe is serious about doing its fair share. And it will give the United States more of an opportunity to assess where and when it must take the lead.

The EU is working to create the capacity to respond to what are called the Petersberg Tasks, which comprise everything from humanitarian missions to peacekeeping to crisis management. The EU nations have both the political and the financial means to take on these missions in their own back yard. What they lack is the capacity, the hardware, to take on these operations, and the structure to organize them together with non-EU countries. Finding such a structure is what the current efforts are all about.

Does this mean a mini-NATO? The answer is clear: no. The EU is not planning to assume responsibility for the collective defense of Europe. That remains NATO's job, along with all its other current missions-from conflict prevention to crisis management all the way up to collective defense. And NATO will retain the forces to do the job, to the highest end.

Where and when North America and Europe agree to work together, it goes without saying that the institution of choice will be NATO. But when a crisis erupts off North America's radar screen, Europe must have the command arrangements and capacities to react. That is why ESDI makes sense for NATO: because a stronger Europe makes a better partner for North America, whether in NATO-led operations or by taking on leadership when NATO does not lead. This evolution makes sense on both sides of the Atlantic. That is why all of NATO's governments agreed to it in the 1999 Strategic Concept.

The challenge we have today is how best to move forward-how to manage the evolution of European capacities so that they reinforce the transatlantic relationship rather than strain it. In particular, we must build the right links between NATO and the EU to ensure that we take advantage of synergies while avoiding unnecessary and costly duplication.

Two issues, in particular, must be managed correctly. First, we must ensure that the non-EU members of NATO participate at a satisfactory level in EU-led operations. Over the past few months, we have made some progress on this issue, and I am confident we will eventually have an EU-NATO agreement that satisfies all concerned.

Second, we have to ensure the coherence of defense planning between the two organizations. EU and NATO forces must be capable of handling the full range of operations they are assigned-for both NATO and EU, not either or. That is why the Alliance is ready to offer access by the EU to NATO's defense planning. This will prevent any unnecessary duplication, and ensure that we have the most effective pool of forces. After all, each nation has only one set of forces, which we must make the best use of.


The press sometimes gives the impression that missile defense is causing a fundamental philosophical problem within the Alliance. This is not the case. On the contrary: Europe and North America have already firmly agreed that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and of ballistic missile technology, poses a real security challenge to all of NATO's members. That agreement is stated very clearly in NATO's new Strategic Concept.

It was not just a rhetorical statement. We have set up a NATO center that is looking at the threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. The center is helping Allies share information on proliferation, and helping to ensure that the information NATO members have, both on the threat and how to respond to it, is shared as fully as possible.

But let me add that our cooperation is not limited to information sharing. NATO's members are conducting a large-scale examination of extended air defense. They are also cooperating on developing Theater Missile Defense capabilities to protect our forces in the field against missile attack. Again, this is a clear demonstration that all Allies share a common desire to address the threat of proliferation. Even Russia has made proposals on missile defense that recognize that there is a threat-a major change in perspective.

All NATO members, North Americans and Europeans, are determined to ensure that any project on ballistic missile defense preserves transatlantic unity, does not undermine good relations with important non-NATO countries, and preserves the overall regime of arms control. The key is to manage the evolution of ballistic missile defense, in the U.S. and across the Alliance, in a way that accomplishes the common goal of improving our overall security.

Once again, NATO is demonstrating its value in managing and shaping change. American officials and their European counterparts meet regularly in NATO to discuss the evolution of American plans. After almost every trip to Moscow to discuss missile defense, American officials stop in Brussels to update their Allies. In turn, Europeans express their views about any proposed plans or ideas so that the United States can take them into account.

We cannot underestimate the importance of these consultations. Today, as a result of our discussions within NATO, there is much deeper transatlantic trust and understanding regarding the missile issue than there was even two years ago. Once again, change is being managed, and managed as it should be: through dialogue and cooperation among NATO members. Our leaders will continue that dialogue at the upcoming meetings in Brussels.


As you all know, NATO's heads of state and government will meet in Prague in November 2002. They have all committed to reviewing the enlargement process at that meeting. As a result, interest in enlargement is growing, in the nine aspirant countries and in the press. NATO's commitment to the enlargement process remains as firm as ever. Why? Because NATO membership can lock in reform and contribute to stability. Because the process itself helps to erase vestigial dividing lines. Because new members make the Alliance even more effective at contributing to Euro-Atlantic peace and security.

Most of all, NATO's door remains open because the Alliance believes that one fundamental principle must be respected: that in today's Europe, every democratic country must have the right to choose its own security arrangements freely. Europe can never be fully stable and secure if countries are not in control of their own destiny. For NATO, adhering to this principle means that when a European democracy is able and willing to make a real contribution to Euro-Atlantic security, the Alliance will consider its application for membership. And let me be very clear and very blunt about this: this includes every democratic country in Europe, not just some. In the Europe of the 21st century, geography can no longer be destiny.

That is why those in NATO continue to work as hard as ever. Through our Membership Action Plan, or MAP, the Alliance is working directly and closely with the governments and militaries of aspirant countries to improve their ability to defend themselves and to work with NATO forces on joint missions. In this way, we are ensuring that by the time they join, they will be net contributors to, not simply consumers of, security.

It is too early for any NATO member, or the Alliance as a body, to discuss possible limitations. At our upcoming meetings, Ministers will simply consider reports on the progress aspirants are making to meet NATO standards. But as we get closer to the 2002 Summit, these discussions will become much more focused and much more heated if the run-up to the Madrid Summit in 1997 is any guide.


Though the points I have touched on are not a complete list of the most prominent issues on the transatlantic agenda today, they certainly indicate how complex NATO's agenda has become. As we enter the 21st century, the Alliance is contributing to Euro-Atlantic security and stability in more ways than ever. But while we are making real progress, there is much more work to be done. That is why I am quite pleased that this Workshop brings together so many experts to discuss the challenges we all face, and to work out some common approaches for tackling them.


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