Slovakia: Changes in our Security Environment
His Excellency Ing. Juraj Liska
Minister of Defense of Slovakia
The Slovak Republic has undergone significant changes in recent years: From totalitarianism to democracy, from lack of freedom to liberty, from collectivism to individual rights. This experience, I believe, is one of our assets in discussing topics such as global security. Allow me, therefore, to make some observations on this topic and, at the same time, to indicate Slovakia’s position.
CHANGES IN SLOVAKIA AND THE SECURITY ENVIRONMENT
When I took office as Minister of Defense, Slovakia was in the final stage of joining NATO and the EU. At that point it was crucial to successfully complete the steps leading to membership in these international organizations. Now that we have attained that membership, it has become the means for achieving our national security priorities, a positive step for Slovakia’s citizens.
However, Slovakia also realizes that, hand in hand with security guarantees and our stable position on the international scene comes the obligation to effectively contribute, together with our allies and partners, to security and peace in the world. That is why we currently have 600 troops deployed in 14 different international operations. Transition from territorial defense to the defense of our interests is one of the key elements of our policy.
As part of our discussion of the issue of global security, we certainly cannot neglect the phenomenon of terrorism. But while we must be aware of the problems and difficulties that currently characterize our fight against this threat, it is important that we do not forget about the broader circumstances surrounding the security environment. The fact that NATO and EU member-states are no longer threatened by the outbreak of a major conflict or military aggression still deserves particular attention. Just as we managed to fend off these threats in the past, we must find a way to successfully cope with the challenges of today. We must apply the same attention and intensity with which we have studied the manifestations of terrorism to seek avenues for eliminating its roots and resources.
However, the substance of the political, economic, social, and military dimension of our security has changed. Increasingly, it is becoming influenced by such needs and values as legality, justice, prosperity, wealth, and freedom. Yet these values must be secured in an environment in which the borders between states (or between communities of states) no longer provide sufficient safeguards against the new global threats and in which policies developed and pursued on a national basis cannot produce adequate responses. Therefore today we must ask the question, “How are NATO and the EU prepared to jointly face the threats and risks?”
ADDRESSING THE THREATS AND RISKS
Our experience testifies to the fact that we are not helpless. There is a wide range of new opportunities and possibilities available to us now. We are better educated, and we communicate and protect information more effectively. We can monitor, anticipate, and respond to current developments. Our ability to pursue these opportunities, however, is limited by trust, by the willingness to cooperate in a more open way, and by the willingness to share strategic intelligence. Slovakia, and I myself, are willing and interested in cooperating in this way within our capabilities.
In the year since joining NATO and the EU, the Slovak Republic has embarked on a review of strategic concepts in the area of security and defense. We have now completed the work on fundamental strategic documents that fully reflect our new position, responsibility, and commitments. Because we need to be able to respond to emergencies adequately, we must be capable of responding proactively in order to minimize potential threats and risks. Therefore it will be key to not only identify early the gravity of a threat, but also to respond quickly with usable forces to eliminate the threat. In my view, the potential of small countries such as Slovakia in this area is sometimes underestimated. I consider our flexibility and niche capabilities to be an advantage that can effectively be combined with the wider range of capabilities of nations that have more available resources. We must have not only the will but the courage to implement security structure reforms. I am pleased to note that many countries, including Slovakia, have opted to follow this—to me—irreversible path.
The creation of conditions that will facilitate the pursuance of the Slovak Republic’s interests in a stable and predictable security environment, is, in my opinion, the essential goal of our security policy. Slovakia wishes to increase its influence on the developments in Europe and in other parts of the world through involvement in NATO and EU-led operations. We shall be particularly active in southeastern Europe, be it militarily or politically, where our interests lie. Credibility and consistency in honoring our commitments are features to which we attribute great significance. They are two of the reasons why our troops are deployed in Afghanistan, a NATO priority, and why they remain in Iraq.
The Slovak Republic’s security policy will be transparent. We shall do our best to make sure that NATO continues to be a trustworthy security guarantor to its members and, at the same time, an effective international crisis-management tool. We shall contribute to the development of the European Security and Defense Policy. And we shall defend human rights and freedoms wherever they are being violated.
CONCLUDING REMARKSAllow me to conclude my address by expressing my firm conviction that cooperation among all countries, big and small, on issues of global security will continue to advance. I also strongly believe that the initiatives arising from this workshop and other discussion forums will contribute to the enhancement of such cooperation and that they will bring about positive results as we shape the security environment.