Center for Strategic Decision Research


NATO's Role in Promoting Security and Stability

His Excellency Josef Zieleniec
Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic

As part of the 14th NATO Workshop, we have dined at the invitation of President Havel in the Spanish Hall at Prague Castle. That extraordinary hall was built during the reign of Emperor Rudolph II, before the Battle of White Mountain and before the Thirty Years War, events that shattered Europe and spelled the end of Czech statehood for three centuries.

Thanks to the Lord Mayor of Prague, we have also been invited to dine in the Municipal House, one of the most remarkable houses in Prague. This building was completed just before the outbreak of World War I, when peace, which followed the Congress of Vienna and lasted dozens of years, collapsed. The Municipal House was built on the site of the King's Court, the seat of many Czech kings during the Middle Ages. Its construction symbolized the hopes for a new Czech nation, hopes that were fulfilled when the independent Czechoslovak Republic, or the First Republic, as we say, was established in 1918.

The Spanish Hall and the Municipal House, therefore, are not only architectural gems, but two invitations to consider the significance of Czech statehood in the past, the present, and the future.


Soon after the Municipal House was completed and the Czechoslovak Republic was established, our nation faced the critical problem of safeguarding its security--security for a small nation surrounded by large and powerful neighbors. We tried to ensure our security by participating in a system of alliances that logically proceeded from the Versailles Peace Treaty. This system sought to secure peace by balancing power very meticulously through a collection of treaties of alliance, both direct and indirect. But when faced with a genuine threat, such a security architecture was certain to collapse.

The system was actually focused on war rather than peace. It was based on treaties that stipulated which countries would join together and which would fight each other. There was no awareness that peace in Europe cannot be taken for granted but must be actively worked for every day. There was also no awareness that European and North American peoples are all part of one civilized region, and that peace in this region is indivisible. Our fathers did not know what we know today--that we must live in peace together or all go to war. The Czech people, together with other Europeans, have learned our lesson: as we make plans to safeguard our present and our future security, we must remember, among other things, our dreadful war experiences.


The Spanish Hall at one time served as the venue for regular meetings of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, and the Municipal House fell into total disrepair. Despite this, the architecture of the two buildings continued to remind us daily of our history, our ties, our roots, our traditions. Such reminders were particularly important at a time when the Communists went out of their way to convince us that such values were indeed irrelevant to our lives, the direction of our state, and our international position, and that the genuine driving force of history is class hatred and class struggle.

But the Communists were not successful in eradicating our value system. Today, as we consider the fate of our state and our co-responsibility for the future of our continent, we are building on our awareness of and our need for Euro-Atlantic togetherness. We are also building on and sharing the values of European integration and the North Atlantic Alliance, two magnificent projects that have given Europe long-lasting peace and prosperity and that stem from common historical experiences. I am convinced that if the Communists had not been in power for the 40 post-war years, the Czech Republic would have been a co-founder of both institutions.


Today, we have returned to the logic of our traditions, the logic of our history, and the logic of our responsibility. We are glad that the 14th NATO Workshop, which is taking place just days before the Alliance's history-making summit, is being held in Prague. The Workshop is further proof that NATO is much more than an alliance for mutual defense in the event of armed conflict; it is also an institution well aware of its exceptional responsibility to preserve long-term political stability and to promote cooperation as the best guarantee of peace.

The process of enlarging the Alliance is an exceptional political project. Part of that process is the need to shape a new relationship between Russia and NATO. Another part is to build a special relationship with Ukraine, since we realize that country's importance to the stability of the entire continent. Still another part is to establish security and political ties with those countries that will not be involved in the first wave of expansion, a task that will be handled by the Council for European-Atlantic Partnership. During the entire process, the Alliance must maintain its openness to future expansion.

Because of the way enlargement will proceed, it will not be instrumental in moving former dividing lines to other spots on the map. Instead, it will make a sizable contribution to promoting togetherness throughout the European continent. And thanks to that, it will contribute to a safer Europe and a safer world.


As many of you know, Prague is a city of music. In both the locations of which I have spoken--Spanish Hall and the Municipal House--concerts are frequently given and beautiful music often resounds. I expect such signs of civilization to continue. There is an ancient saying: "Inter arma silent Musae" -- "Amid wars the Muses are silent." I am convinced that though there may be many soldiers among the participants of the 14th NATO Workshop, our discussions, our ability to come together to take part in the discussions, and the conclusions we draw from our meetings will not only keep the Muses from being silent but will encourage them to speak.



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