NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Europe needs to step up for security

Anders_Fogh_RasmussenSpeech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Annual National Conference on Europe, Oslo, Norway.

It is a great pleasure to attend your Annual National Conference on Europe.  So let me start by saying “tusen takk” to the Norwegian Foreign Ministry and to Oslo University.

This morning, I had the honour to attend the Liberation Day ceremony at Akershus. I pay tribute to those freedom fighters that fought for Norway’s freedom and independence.

I applaud the Norwegian spirit of freedom that demonstrated to the world a good example of the will to fight oppression.

I salute the Norwegian nation that stood up and fought for her freedom.

Through those dark days of World War II, the Norwegian people understood that freedom is priceless and it takes will and courage to fight oppression if you are to preserve your freedom.

Sixty-four years ago, your country and mine were among the twelve founding members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.  NATO’s creation was an investment in a stable and secure Europe.  An investment not just by European nations  but also by the United States and Canada.  It has been a wise investment for us all.

Thanks to NATO, we have enjoyed the longest period of peace and prosperity in our history.  Our Alliance has successfully safeguarded the values that unite us as a transatlantic community: freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.

For the first four decades, we prevented the Cold War from getting hot.  And for these past two decades, we have proved to be just as valuable for our security, but in a different way.

We have opened our door for new members.  We have engaged many other countries in partnership, dialogue and cooperation, including Russia.  And alongside the European Union, we have expanded the zone of peace and stability in Europe.

We have also demonstrated our determination, and our ability, to respond to crises and challenges.  Both close to home, as in the Balkans and Libya.  And at a strategic distance, as in Afghanistan.  Norwegian forces have made — and continue to make — a vital contribution to these efforts.

We are building a NATO misile defence to protect against the growing threat posed by long-range missiles.  We are also building up our defences against cyber attacks.  And we are patrolling key maritime routes to counter piracy.  Because in our increasingly connected world, any disruption to our transport, energy and communication systems will be at great cost –  not just to our economies, but also to our security.

An arc of crisis now stretches from the Sahel, across North Africa and the Middle East, and into Central Asia.  And developments in North Korea are just the latest reminder that instability in one nation can affect regional and international stability.

While these challenges are very different, they are all collective challenges.  They affect all our nations.  And they require a collective response.  That is why defence matters.  And why NATO matters.

But the security that NATO offers does not come for free.  All Allies need to make the appropriate investment in defence.  Because to deal effectively with the full range of security challenges, we need the full range of security capabilities.  We need an Alliance that remains capable and credible.  So we need forces that are flexible, modern and deployable.

At a time of economic austerity for many of our nations, some say we can’t afford the price of security.  But I say we can’t afford the cost of insecurity.

I am a former Prime Minister, and an economist by training.  I know that defence cannot be divorced from economic reality.  Governments simply have to balance their budgets.  And that includes defence budgets.

But we must not forget that our freedom, our prosperity and our well-being rest on our security.  And on our ability to provide the stability that is necessary for our economies to function and flourish.

Our investment in NATO is a mutual investment, shared among all the Allies.  It provides us all with a position of strength and influence.  And it gives all of our nations – big or small — far greater security than they could ever achieve on their own.

But today, there is a serious imbalance in the investment made in our Alliance.  The figures are stark. The United States now accounts for three quarters of NATO’s defence spending.  This imbalance has serious operational and political consequences.

A new generation of American politicians and voters are asking why they should continue to “subsidise” Europe’s security, if European nations themselves seem unwilling to pay their share.  If this trend continues, I am concerned it could undermine the support for NATO.  And that could put the vital bond between Europe and North America at risk.

So how do we move forward?  How can we continue to safeguard our freedom?  And how do we preserve our ability to tackle risks and threats to our security, even at a time of austerity?  I see three key priorities.

The first priority is to hold the line on defence investment.  There is a lower limit of how little we can spend on defence, while still being able to meet our responsibilities. That limit has been reached.   We cannot afford to make any further cuts.  And we must ensure that, as soon as our economies recover, we start to invest more in defence, and in NATO.

The second priority is to work more closely together.  So that we use our resources more effectively.  Let me give you two examples.

The first concerns equipment.  Many modern military capabilities are extremely expensive – and some nations cannot afford to buy them on their own.  But by working together with other nations, they can share the costs and acquire the critical capabilities they need – and the Alliance needs. This is being “smart” with the way we invest in defence capabilities – and we call this approach “Smart Defence”.

The other example concerns our forces.  Our Afghanistan, Balkans, and Libya operations have given our forces considerable experience of working together.  This is a vital skill we need to keep.  But our operational tempo is likely to reduce in the coming years, so we need to find another way to maintain this operational edge.  And this is the purpose of our “Connected Forces Initiative”.  By training and exercising more together – both with Allies and with partners – our forces will maintain their ability to operate together.

The third priority is to create a new, and better, balance in NATO.

When we acted to protect the people of Libya from a murderous regime two years ago, European nations showed that they are willing to lead a NATO operation, and to provide the majority of capabilities.  The Norwegian air force made a tremendous contribution to the success of that effort.

But Libya also confirmed what we have seen in Afghanistan.  And what we saw again with the French-led operation in Mali earlier this year.  That European nations continue to rely on the United States to provide certain high-end capabilities that are key to modern operations — long distance transport aircraft; air-to-air refuelling aircraft; and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets.

I am glad that European nations have now started to work together to address this imbalance – and to fill these critical gaps.  I continue to encourage them to cooperate more – whether within NATO, or within the European Union, or within bilateral or regional groups.  Here again, Norway has set an example for others to follow.  You are working together effectively with your Nordic and Baltic neighbours, with NATO Allies as well as NATO partners.  And NATO is already seeing the benefit of this cooperation.

Norway has also helped the Alliance develop new approaches to building security.   You have drawn the attention of your Allies to emerging challenges, such as the security implications of climate change.  And you have highlighted the role of women in peace and security, which has become a major consideration in our operations, our training, and many other activities.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am confident that your generation will continue the courageous and exemplary work of earlier generations.  And that Norway will continue to be a powerful example for others in Europe.

Your country understands that all European nations face crucial choices on the future of our continent.  On the balance in our relations with our North American Allies.  And on Europe’s role and relevance in the wider world.

More than six decades ago, we made a very wise investment.  We invested in a security alliance between Europe and America that has served us extremely well.

We now need to make sure that NATO continues to serve us as well in the future.  And there is no alternative.  We need to invest today – politically, militarily and financially – so that we can be prepared for whatever tomorrow may bring.

Because we need hard capabilities to back up our diplomacy.  To ensure that Europe retains credibility and influence.  To sustain our continent’s role as a global actor.  And to help keep the spirit of freedom alive.

Thank you.

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