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The Royal Institute of International Affairs
Catham House
London

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here at Chatham House. This august institution has become a by-word for free and open debate. It is full of history, yet focused on the future. For nearly nine decades, speakers from around the globe have come to Chatham House to discuss their vision for shaping international affairs. So I can think of no better place to set out my vision for the future of NATO.

These days, it’s not easy to be an optimist. Indeed, we appear to be surrounded by professional pessimists. In the newspapers. On our television screens. In the blogs.

We see speculation that the euro could unravel and Europe could break up. Fears that the world is slowly but surely passing Europe by. And that as Europe looks inwards, our neighbours are turning away, and North America is looking elsewhere for friends and partners.

We see turmoil and uncertainty across the Middle East and North Africa. We witness the emergence of new powers — economically, politically, and militarily. And we hear many commentators predict the decline of the West as we know it.

Undoubtedly we live in a time of momentous shifts, in a world that is increasingly unpredictable, complex and interlinked. But I strongly disagree with the vision of doom and gloom.

Europe and North America still have tremendous resources, resolve, and ideas. And when we work together, there is no greater force for positive change.

But we do have to answer the fundamental questions. How can the TransAtlantic community keep its global power of attraction and influence? And as the world shifts, how do we embrace that shift and help shape it?

My message today is that NATO will be a key part of the answer. In this time of uncertainty, a strong NATO is a source of confidence. It is an essential contributor to wider international security and stability. It means we can face today’s challenges from a position of strength.

For over sixty years, NATO has guaranteed the security and stability that have allowed this continent to flourish. We are an Alliance of 28 democracies. A unique forum for transatlantic dialogue – and transatlantic action. We can launch and sustain complex joint operations in a way that no one else can.

We can work effectively with partners in a way that no one else can. And at our recent summit in Chicago, we took important steps to make sure this Alliance can deal with security challenges despite the economic challenges, and remain fit for the future.

At a time of global risks and threats, delivering security must be a cooperative effort. And this means NATO must continue to strengthen its connection with other countries and organisations around the globe.

Our partners have been key to NATO’s success over the past two decades. Much has been already achieved and we have reason to be proud. Militaries around the world aspire to our standards and the ability of our forces to work together. Importantly, we can integrate other nations’ contributions into complex multinational operations like no other organisation.

From Afghanistan to the Balkans, and last year over Libya, our partners have played a vital role in the operational outcome and the political legitimacy of our missions. They have made NATO stronger and kept the world safer. So it is as important for NATO to invest in strong partnerships as it is to invest in modern military hardware, and in flexible forces.

Partnership is not a choice between staying at home or going global. It is not peripheral to our business – it is part of NATO’s core business. In almost all areas, we need effective partnerships to be successful. To manage crises. To defend against emerging security challenges. And to promote stability. We cannot deal with today’s security challenges from a purely European perspective. What matters is being engaged wherever our security matters. That means here in Europe. Across the Euro-Atlantic area. And around the globe.

Ladies and gentlemen,

First and foremost, we must finish our unfinished business here in Europe.

Alongside the European Union’s enlargement, NATO’s Open Door policy has already transformed this continent fundamentally, and permanently.

Throughout Central and Eastern Europe, NATO membership has been a powerful incentive for reform. Countries aspiring to membership have restructured their armed forces and brought them under democratic control. They have enhanced accountability and transparency. And strengthened the rule of law.

At the same time, the prospect of NATO membership gave confidence to investors. Which in turn led to economic drive, development and dynamism.

And it is no coincidence that those countries who have joined NATO over the past thirteen years have also joined the European Union, or are preparing to do so.

Ten years ago, I was Prime Minister of Denmark when my country held the presidency of the European Union. That year, at the Copenhagen and Prague Summits, we invited new members to join the European Union, and NATO. These were bold steps towards a Europe whole, free and at peace.

But that journey is not yet complete. Both we, and our partners, still have some way to go. On this journey, there are no shortcuts. And NATO’s door does not open automatically just because you stand in front of it.

Membership of our Alliance requires hard work and political commitment. It takes a solid track record of reform and responsibility. And it needs new resolve to settle old disputes. Our commitment to keep our door open has to be matched by our partners’ commitment to do what it takes to go through that door when the time is right. Because it contributes to the security of the North-Atlantic area. And it opens the prospect of a better future for all of us.

A more open and stable Europe has already brought many benefits to the wider Euro-Atlantic area. Including to Russia. I know that’s not necessarily how it’s seen in Moscow. But the fact is that Russia’s trade with NATO’s new members has soared. And our Open Door policy has, in effect, helped provide Russia with a strategic setting it has always wanted. Stability on its western borders.

Still, Russian misperceptions about NATO’s Open Door policy persist. As do many other myths about the Alliance. We must work to overcome this. To help Russia understand that it can build security together with us, not against us.

NATO’s security and Russia’s security are intertwined. That is why our stated goal is to forge a true strategic partnership. A partnership based on mutual confidence, transparency and predictability. Where we work together constructively in the many areas where we have a common interest, such as Afghanistan. And where we can also address the outstanding issues that still divide us.

The Alliance is not a threat to Russia. And we do not believe Russia is a threat to us. So once and for all, let’s stop looking at each other through the prism of the past. Let’s look instead for opportunities to work closer together in the future.

And a major opportunity for such cooperation is missile defence. It has the potential to be a real game changer – for the better. We must redouble our efforts to make that change, because the threat of missile proliferation is grave, and growing, and it knows no borders.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As I have outlined, NATO’s partnerships start at home, in the Trans-Atlantic area, and in our close neighbourhood. But they cannot stop there. Our economy is globalised. Our security is globalised. And if we are to protect our populations effectively, our approach to security has to be globalised too.

This is why cooperative security is fundamental to the Alliance’s way of doing business. It means NATO must be able, and willing, to engage politically and militarily with other nations, wherever they may be, and with other international organisations, such as the United Nations and the European Union.

Just a few weeks ago I visited Australia, where Prime Minister Julia Gillard and I signed a Joint Political Declaration. And this is significant: because although we may live on different sides of the world, NATO and Australia are on the same side when it comes to security. We share common values. We share the same determination to develop common approaches to common challenges. And our joint declaration lays out how we will do this. It is the first of its kind. But I am confident it won’t be the last. Because many other nations are also working closely with NATO to address common challenges.

In Afghanistan, for instance, Australia is part of a NATO-led coalition of 50 nations, the largest in recent history. Our partners come from all five continents. Because we all want to ensure that Afghanistan will not again provide a safe haven for terrorists who threaten our nations.

Our combat mission will be completed by the end of 2014. But we know that we won’t get a holiday from history afterwards. We will remain engaged in training the Afghan security forces. And we will continue to face many other, complex security challenges. So we must build on the practical experience of working with our partners in order to work even more closely together in the future.

Let there be no doubt. This is not about replacing our existing partnerships. It is not about expanding our foot-print into other parts of the world. Nor is it about NATO assuming global responsibilities.

This is about NATO assuming a global perspective. Playing its part globally, and strengthening our ability to act in concert with our partners around the globe.

Today, we hold regular consultations with all our partners on security issues of common interest. I would like to see those consultations become much more frequent, focused and substance-driven. I believe there is considerable scope for developing clusters of willing and able Allies and partners ready to cooperate in specific areas.

I see these clusters being flexible enough to accommodate different groups of partners, yet focused enough to deliver concrete results. And I am thinking of areas such as training and education, emerging security challenges, and Smart Defence.

Today, many partner countries take the opportunities NATO offers to participate in our military education, training and exercises. But this is largely on an ad-hoc basis. I would like to see a much more structured approach. And the broadest possible range of nations being involved in such activities.

One example is cooperation among special forces. This offers considerable potential to learn more, and do more, both for NATO, and for partners. We must build on the lessons that we learnt together in action in Afghanistan. So we can boost our ability to act together in the future.

Dealing with emerging security challenges is another area where we could do more together. Issues such as maritime security, energy security, and cyber security are complex. And to confront them successfully demands a high degree of consultation, coordination, and cooperation. Taking maritime security as an example, I believe there would be huge benefit from Allied and partner navies working more closely together in specific aspects, such as counter-piracy.

The third area for cluster cooperation is Smart Defence. There is scope not just for NATO and partner nations, but also for NATO and the European Union to work more closely together on multinational capability projects. We can both learn from each other’s initiatives. And the cluster approach will help to focus our efforts and get the most out of our resources.

As well as expanding the range of issues where we cooperate, we must also expand the range of nations with whom we engage. Take China, for example. It is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. It is playing an increasingly important global role. And as an organisation which is driven by the UN Charter of Principles, NATO needs to better understand China and define areas where we can work together to guarantee peace and stability. This is why I believe we need to hold a more active dialogue with China.

There are other important countries too, such as India, with whom we should increase our dialogue and seek opportunities for cooperation.

To do all this, we need an alliance that is globally aware. Globally connected. And globally capable. That is my vision for NATO.

Ladies and gentlemen,

NATO’s partnerships play a key part in meeting the security concerns of today and tomorrow – be they local, regional, or global. The range of our partnerships reflects the world we live in. And the challenges we face. But there is one partnership that stands out above all others. For its importance. Its uniqueness. And its value to all Allies. That is the transatlantic partnership.

The transatlantic bond lies at the very heart of NATO. It represents our common belief in freedom, democracy and the rule of law. And it provides shared leadership between North America and Europe.

Some see the United States’ pivot to Asia-Pacific as the end of this unique partnership. They are wrong. The security of America and Europe is indivisible. We are stronger, and safer, when we work together. And that is why NATO remains the indispensable Alliance.

It is around this essential transatlantic bond that we can — and we must — strengthen our partnerships. In Europe. With Russia. And around the globe. Because in the twenty-first century, we are all connected, whether we want it or not. Our positive connection and continued engagement with partners is a cure for pessimism. A cause for optimism. And the key for the security we all seek.

Thank you.