10 June 2004
NATO Remains Our Essential Alliance
Ambassador Burns explains U.S. agenda for NATO
The following article by Ambassador R. Nicholas Burns appears
in the June 2004 issue of the State Department electronic journal
of "U.S. Foreign Policy Agenda" devoted to examining the newly
enlarged NATO on the verge of its Istanbul Summit. The entire journal
is available at http://usinfo.state.gov/journals/itps/0604/ijpe/ijpe0604.htm.
There are no republication restrictions.
By R. Nicholas Burns
U.S. Ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
Originally created to shield Western Europe from Soviet communist
aggression, the modern-day NATO has adapted to 21st century threats,
transformed itself politically, acquired new military capabilities,
and embarked on important new missions confronting the global
terrorism threat on its front lines. For NATO's June summit in
Istanbul and beyond, the U.S. envisions five ambitious goals
for the 55-year old Alliance. This venerable multilateral institution
remains a vital transcontinental bridge linking the United States
and Canada to democracies in Europe and extending security across
virtually two continents.
Since September 11, 2001, the United States and its allies have
been engaged in a top-to-bottom rebuilding of NATO. At the Prague
Summit in November 2002, the allies agreed on a blueprint to create
a new NATO -- different in mission, membership, and capabilities
than the old Cold War institution. The results of our transformation
efforts will be evident at NATO's Istanbul Summit in June 2004.
This epochal transformation has been occurring simultaneously
with the Alliance's greatest enlargement since its founding in
1949. The Istanbul Summit will mark the first meeting of NATO's
heads of state with 26 member nations. The addition to NATO of
Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia
completed the greatest round of enlargement in NATO's 55-year history.
Those seven nations joined NATO in late March of this year, helping
to consolidate the democratic revolution in the former Warsaw Pact
countries. Their accession re-energizes the Alliance and reaffirms
the importance of security as a condition for progress and prosperity.
These new members of NATO, in the words of Latvian President Vaira
Vike-Frieberga, "know the meaning and the value of liberty. They
know that it is worth every effort to support it, to maintain it,
to stand for it, and to fight for it."
As important as NATO's political transformation has been its evolution
from a defensive and static military alliance with a huge, heavy
army massed to deter a Soviet threat to Western Europe. NATO's
past focused inward on Cold War threats directed at the heart of
Europe. NATO's future is focused outward on the challenges posed
by global terrorist networks and, in particular, to the security
of its members from the arc of instability that stretches from
South and Central Asia to the Middle East and North Africa.
To meet those new threats, NATO is beginning to acquire modern
military capabilities to produce a more deployable force -- capabilities
such as strategic airlift and refueling, precision-guided munitions,
air-to-ground surveillance, and combat service support. Last summer,
NATO created a new, leaner military command structure and a new
Alliance Transformation Command in Norfolk to plug European allies
into revolutionary new concepts in training, doctrine, and technology
being pioneered by the U.S. Joint Forces Command. Most significantly,
the Alliance has also developed a flexible, agile, cutting-edge
NATO Response Force (NRF) to which France has been a major contributor.
The NRF is prepared for any mission -- whether hostage rescue,
humanitarian relief, response to terrorist attack, or high intensity
conflict -- deployable within days to wherever in the world it
is needed, and sustainable once it gets there.
Today, NATO has more troops committed to missions at greater distances
than ever before in its history. In addition to ongoing operations
in Kosovo and Bosnia, and supporting the Polish-led multinational
brigade in Iraq, NATO has embarked on a historic mission in Afghanistan,
where it commands the U.N.-mandated International Security Assistance
Force (ISAF) in Kabul.
As we prepare for the NATO Summit in Istanbul and look to the
future, the United States sees five goals for NATO. They constitute
an ambitious agenda for our Alliance.
Our highest priority is helping the Afghan people rebuild their
shattered country. NATO, which has command of the U.N.-mandated
ISAF, must reinforce its long-term peacekeeping role in Afghanistan.
The allies have agreed that we will move beyond Kabul to build
a nation-wide presence, and help the Afghan government to extend
its authority and provide security for nationwide elections. We
are moving to create five new Provincial Reconstruction Teams.
But NATO's success will depend on having the troops and military
resources to do the job. The U.S. calls on European nations to
contribute more troops and resources in order to construct a more
vigorous NATO presence in Afghanistan.
Our second key goal is to examine how to set the stage for a greater
NATO role in Iraq as President Bush has suggested. Recent events
have clearly made this task difficult, but the proposal is supported
by a large group of allies. After the interim Iraqi government
assumes control on June 30, NATO allies will continue to serve
as valued members of the coalition forces. NATO can offer something
of inestimable value to help Iraqis make the great transition from
dictatorship to a democratic future. Defining such a mission will
be a leading issue for NATO's heads of state to discuss at Istanbul
in June and in the coming months.
Third, NATO should expand its engagement with the Arab world and
Israel to help those countries find their way toward a more peaceful
future in the Greater Middle East. The United States wants NATO
to be one of the building blocks for our long-term engagement in
this vast region. Recent Alliance consultations in the region have
demonstrated some support for an enhanced relationship with NATO.
Long-term change in the Middle East will help to attack the foundations
of the terrorism crisis and give democracy and civil society a
chance to take root. This is a challenge that Europeans and Americans
alike must embrace. We can transform NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue
into a true partnership, offering military training and exercises
and a closer political relationship, and also launch outreach to
other countries in the region with the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.
Our focus should be on practical cooperation with those countries
that wish to have a closer relationship with NATO.
Our fourth goal is to improve relations between NATO and the European
Union (EU), the two great institutions responsible for Europe's
future, particularly in the Balkans. The spring 2004 enlargements
of both organizations have advanced our common goal of a Europe
whole, free, and at peace. Toward that end, both organizations
will remain active in maintaining the hard-won peace and stability
in the Balkans. NATO will likely conclude its successful peacekeeping
mission in Bosnia in December 2004, and support a new EU mission
under the "Berlin Plus" framework agreed to by the two organizations
last March. But NATO should maintain a robust presence and a military
headquarters in Sarajevo to help Bosnian authorities bring indicted
war criminals to justice. In Kosovo, NATO will continue the KFOR
(Kosovo Force) mission, maintaining the security and stability
that Kosovo needs as it works on an internationally-backed plan
to expand democratic institutions, protect minority rights, return
and reintegrate displaced persons, and open dialogue with Belgrade.
If it makes sufficient progress by mid-2005, the international
community will then consider beginning to address Kosovo's future
status. Together, NATO and the EU must continue to support the
transition to stable, market-oriented democracies in Kosovo, Bosnia,
Our fifth goal is to elevate NATO's relations with Russia. Our
constructive engagement through the NATO-Russia Council has helped
make our citizenry safer and more secure today than at any time
in the last 50 years. NATO and Russia will participate in a major
civil emergency crisis management exercise in Kaliningrad in June.
Yet there is much more NATO can do with Russia -- from search and
rescue at sea to theater missile defense to greater cooperation
in the Black Sea to joint peacekeeping. NATO needs to set its sights
on a closer relationship that will put our past rivalry behind
One more obstacle must be overcome if the Alliance is to achieve
its goals: the persistent and growing gap in military capabilities
between the United States and the rest of its allies. If NATO's
transformation and long-term missions are to be successful, our
European allies will need to spend more -- and more wisely -- on
defense. The U.S. will spend $400 billion on defense this year;
the 25 other allies combined will spend less than half of that.
In addition, there is the "usability gap" -- of Europe's 2.4 million
men and women in uniform, only three percent are now deployed in
our priority missions in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Forces
that are static, untrained, ill equipped, and not deployable make
no contribution to NATO or to the larger cause of peace and stability
in Europe and beyond.
After terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, and
later in Istanbul and in Madrid, there is no doubt among NATO Allies
that our security is indivisible. The most dangerous security threats
of our globalized 21st century are themselves global: sophisticated
terrorist networks seeking access to weapons of mass destruction.
President Harry Truman, who led the United States into NATO, could
have been speaking of the present day when he said in 1951, "no
nation can find safety behind its own frontiers ... the only security
lies in collective security."
That is sound advice for the U.S. role in today's NATO. The United
States will remain committed to NATO and to effective multilateralism
in our effort to repair transatlantic divisions and rebuild NATO
for the future. Allied cooperation on issues of international peace
and security helped NATO win the Cold War and will be indispensable
to winning the global war on terror. The new NATO remains our essential
alliance for achieving the common European and American vision
for a secure, peaceful, democratic, and prosperous future.