Istanbul '09 Workshop

Global Security in Times of Economic Uncertainty

His Excellency Professor Dr. Nuno Severiano Teixeira
Minister of Defense of Portugal

His Excellency Professor Dr. Nuno Severiano Teixeira

When one speaks about global security concerns in present times, the primary issue is the need to define a strategy to respond to today’s international crisis scenarios. This response depends, first, on understanding the nature of that crisis, a crisis that is more than strictly economic and financial and that has political consequences. Among those consequences is the possibility that international conflicts and divisions will worsen.

This crisis began by shaking markets and financial institutions but it quickly affected states and citizens, creating visible pockets of social instability and a breakdown in confidence. The crisis will have much broader repercussions, particularly in the more vulnerable regions of the world. This is why the response to it inevitably involves addressing international security issues.


The international environment is plagued by uncertainty and volatility, and it is changing at a dizzying pace. As a result of the transformations shaped by a globalized world, with shorter distances, ever more innovative technologies, and the proliferation of new actors, our societies face new threats and new asymmetries that, together with traditional risks, are creating a complex reality that is very different from the familiar Cold War context.

Security in the 21st Century, then, is characterized by a multiplicity of nonconventional risks and threats that are simultaneously transnational and at the substate level and that affect both international and state security. At the international level, there is terrorism, fundamentalism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and organized crime, including trafficking in human beings. At the substate level, we witness the multiplication of violent conflict and civil wars and the emergence of failed states, now a quite common phenomena that constitutes direct and indirect threats to international security and stability.

To address all of this, guaranteeing security today means operating well beyond the geographic frontiers of the state. Security is ensured by projecting stability across regional frontiers and by helping to build and consolidate the rule of law in a politically and economically sustainable way at the international level. In order to attain this goal, joint action by states that share the same principles, values, and security concepts is essential.

Because of the existence of cooperative security arrangements, it is likely that we shall see an increase in international peace missions in order to address the current context of crisis and uncertainty. As a consequence, the demands for participation of our states’ armed forces in such operations will also increase.


In this strategic context, it is essential to identify poles of stability enablers to promote international security that can act as fundamental pillars of a multilateral order. Without a doubt, two of these poles are the Atlantic Alliance and the European Union. These organizations have shown a sustained ability to adapt to new strategic realities: Both have evolved according to the demands of a new international order and both have asserted their status as fundamental pillars of the Euro-Atlantic defense community.

The Atlantic Alliance was established in 1949 in the thick of the Cold War to ensure the territorial defense of Europe against the Soviet threat. Today, nearly 60 years later, NATO’s main mission is in Afghanistan, beyond its traditional area of intervention, and it faces an international security environment that is marked by diffuse and multiple threats and new actors, including non-state actors. Throughout its history, NATO has successfully survived various crisis periods. Contrary to pessimistic predictions, it outlasted the end of the Cold War. It also has had to deal with new crisis moments since the Cold War, not least among them the disagreement between the Allies over intervention in Iraq. But the Atlantic Alliance survived that crisis as well. Its essential dimensions—the shared values of democracy, liberty, and the rule of law and the indivisibility of Allies’ security—has also survived, and remains as it did in the 1990s. These shared values are the permanent basis of the Atlantic Alliance.


We are at a key moment in our thinking about the future of the Atlantic Alliance; this will culminate with the formulation of the Alliance’s new Strategic Concept, which we hope will be presented at the NATO summit in Portugal. This new Strategic Concept must address four questions that are essential to the future of NATO and that, it must be admitted, the Allies have not forged consensus on. These issues are:

  • The enlargement of the Alliance and new members
  • Operations outside the traditional Euro-Atlantic area
  • The transformation of NATO structures and concepts Strategic partnerships, namely, with the European Union

Let me now briefly reflect on each one.


The debate on enlargement is probably one of the most complex within the Alliance, and is an absolutely fundamental issue. I believe NATO should not definitively close the door to new members, but it must clearly define the conditions and requirements for membership. The consolidation of a democratic regime and associated institutions is a must, of course, as is the contribution that states can make to reinforce international security. Beyond that, it is equally vital that NATO reject any enlargement that puts at risk or diminishes the credibility of the collective defense guarantees that are and will remain the raison d’être of the Atlantic Alliance.

Operations Outside the Traditional Area

One of the main debates within NATO during the last few years has been the geographical limits of the Alliance’s missions. In fact, what is at stake is the question of whether we want NATO to focus exclusively on territorial defense and the Euro-Atlantic region or whether we want it to contribute with its partners to global security. In short, do we want an Alliance for collective defense or to promote global security?

At its last summits, the Alliance shifted toward a global security agenda. To pursue that goal, NATO should develop structures and capabilities to ensure that it is prepared to intervene in operational theaters within and beyond the Euro- Atlantic area. The definition of these scenarios and the choice of partnerships should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with international security demands and international law.

The Transformation of NATO-Structures and Concepts

NATO has been engaged in a significant transformation process that began with the approval of the revised Strategic Concept in 1999 and continued with the concept’s current revision. The Atlantic Alliance must adapt to the new international security demands and ensure that it has the capabilities, interoperability, and training as well as other necessary requirements to be successful in the full range of missions. For these reasons, the process of NATO transformation should follow a key internal debate and a shared vision among Allies, focusing not only on geographical issues but also on how to adapt institutional structures to established policies and missions.

The Relationship Between NATO and Its Strategic Partners

The Atlantic Alliance today does and should rely on the support of and complementary action by the European Union. The Alliance and the EU are the two fundamental pillars of multilateral security and defense structures. For this reason, they must find the institutional means to permanently articulate their priorities, to coordinate their missions, and to maximize their security and defense capabilities. The Atlantic Alliance and the European Union should not compete but work together as mutual, credible, and useful allies.

This is the basic principle that should guide the European Security and Defense Policy development as well as its military capabilities. Like any other strategic concept, this development must clearly specify the main threats and risks to European security as well as the necessary instruments to respond adequately.

The first step toward a definition was taken in 2003, with the presentation of the European Security Strategy. This document was a first in the history of European integration: It established a European strategic vision and doctrine about external action for the first time. Six years later, in the light of the current international context and the new challenges the union faces, it is necessary to adapt this strategic vision so that it can serve the goals and ambitions of the EU for the coming decade.


Given the current international context, it is important to promote change in several ways. In addition to including the definition of threats in the current Strategic Concept—terrorism, proliferation of WMD, regional conflicts, failed states, and transnational organized crime—we must examine how these threats are interrelated and how the EU can respond to them effectively. For this it is essential to promote coordinated action between the three pillars of European policies, so that the vision put forward in the strategy has practical consequences through the establishment of integrated policies and mechanisms for global action.

The European Security Strategy must also include the new challenges and risks emerging from the current international context, and assert the position of the EU as an actor that shares responsibility for promoting international security. In terms of challenges, the EU must take into account the importance of relations with Russia and new emerging powers such as India, China, and Brazil as well as issues arising from globalization, such as information and financial flows.

Regarding risks, in addition to those already identified, we need to address the issues of energy security, maritime security, food security, cybersecurity, and the risks arising as a result of climate change, such as natural disasters and pandemics. All of this is necessary because the security concept we work with today includes not just the security of states but also the security of people.

The main objective of the European Security Concept is to provide the union with a coherent vision that allows it to become an international actor with a decisive role promoting a safer and more stable world. For this goal to become a reality, it is absolutely essential that the Treaty of Lisbon enter into force.


Portugal is a founding member of the Atlantic Alliance and a member of the European Union. It has participated in the main NATO missions and from the outset in the formulation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the European Security and Defense Policy. It is simultaneously a European and an Atlantic country. It is on the basis of this “dual identity” that Portugal has carved a place for itself within the international system as a responsible state, a partner, and an ally that fulfils its commitment to promote international stability, security, and peace.

To that end, the Portuguese Armed Forces have actively participated in a set of important international peace missions within the framework of the Atlantic Alliance, the United Nations, and the European Union. During the 1990s, Portugal was systematically the first European state to contribute to U.N. peacekeeping missions, committing troops to such operations. Thus, we have taken on board the international commitments that arise from our system of alliances as well as the demands of a new system of collective security.

Over the last 20 years, almost 25,000 members of the Portuguese Armed Forces have participated either individually or as part of a unit in more than 50 missions throughout 20 countries in Africa, Europe, Asia, and, more recently, the Middle East. The Portuguese Armed Forces currently participate in foreign missions, deploying a total of 800 individuals in 11 operation theaters such as Kosovo, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and afloat off Somalia’s coast.

These efforts allow us to assert with all legitimacy that the Portuguese armed forces’ external commitments have produced excellent results, and that our forces have contributed unequivocally to the promotion of Euro-Atlantic stability and security as well as to assert Portugal’s position in the international political system. We are ready and willing to pursue the collective and coordinated effort for the permanent adaptation of our armed forces. This is an indispensable effort that should be developed and shared among Allies and partners in NATO and the European Union.

For Portugal it is clear that the European defense community can only be built up by strengthening the Atlantic Alliance, and vice versa. We are aware that the essential conditions for our national stability and security depend on the stability and security conditions of the Euro-Atlantic community. In moments of crisis, as we face new and old threats alike, convergence among Allies and eliminating the possibility of division are priorities to be pursued for the benefit of all. We need a shared strategic vision, without which complementarity between the Atlantic Alliance and the European Union in the defense and security domains cannot be established in a stable and permanent way. So this is the goal we should seek to attain: a stable, effective, and permanent complementarity between NATO and the EU.

The present period provides a great opportunity for pursuing that goal. The position of the U.S. administration as well as the positions of the European allies provide us with an opportunity that we cannot and should not waste.

It is a positive that the U.S. recognizes the need for a strong and cohesive Europe, and the need to reinforce autonomous European defense capacities in a framework of shared European Union-Atlantic Alliance responsibilities for collective defense. It is also good that Europeans and the EU member-states reiterate their determination to put aside strategies that are detrimental to the internal cohesion of the union as well as to the internal cohesion of the Atlantic Alliance. This commitment is fundamental for the Atlantic Alliance to take on its growing international security responsibilities and for the European Union to take on its new European defense and near-neighborhood security duties. Certainly, Portugal can and will contribute to these goals.

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