Remarks by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Munich Security Conference plenary session on “Building Euro-Atlantic Security”


Ambassador Ischinger,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It’s always stimulating to be at the Munich Security Conference – and it was with great pleasure that I listened to Secretary Panetta and Secretary Clinton, and I would like to thank both of them for the reaffirmation of their strong commitment to European security. For me the strong transatlantic bond is the bedrock of Euro-Atlantic security, and our transatlantic community will only grow stronger if we engage with partners across the globe as outlined by Secretary Clinton.

Ambassador Ischinger, your report on Euro-Atlantic security is a very valuable contribution to the debate. And I would like to thank Igor Ivanov and Sam Nunn for their presentations this morning. I read the report with great interest.

It is my firm belief that we should build a genuine strategic partnership between NATO and Russia. Because the peoples of our countries would benefit from:
more security if we strengthen cooperation on fighting terrorism, proliferation, piracy, and narcotics,
better economy if we create a secure environment for enhanced trade and investment, and
reinforced political leadership if we join efforts in addressing the global challenges.

And let us remind ourselves that Euro-Atlantic security is interlinked with and a cornerstone of global security.

During the last two and a half years we have made substantial progress in the NATO-Russia relationship. But is has not yet reached its full potential. Far from it. And I strongly agree with your report that a successful cooperation between NATO and Russia on missile defence would be a game-changer.

Your report shows that cooperation on missile defence between NATO and Russia is not just the answer to a common threat but could also transform our strategic relationship.

At our summit in Lisbon, we invited Russia to cooperate with us on missile defence, so that we could tackle old suspicions and new threats at the same time. And at our summit in Chicago in May, there is a chance we could take the next step together.

I particularly welcome the fact that the report is the result of the joint efforts by senior political and military leaders from Russia, Europe, and the United States. The fact that you managed to reach consensus on such difficult issues is an inspiration to us all. It shows how much we can accomplish together, if we are committed to cooperation.

And that is my theme today - how we can work better together, both within NATO and with our partners.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For over sixty years, NATO has successfully delivered security and stability. In Europe, in the Euro-Atlantic area, and beyond.

For Allies, this has been an astute security investment. At its core lies a unique capacity for Allies to work together. This is what makes the Alliance more than the sum of its individual members. What made us successful in the past. And what will make us successful in the future.

That’s why we need to continue investing in it – now more than ever.

I see three significant changes that will affect NATO in the coming years: defence cuts in Europe; the evolution of the United States defence posture; and the end of our combat operations in Afghanistan.

We need to respond to these changes so that, by the end of this decade and into the next, we emerge stronger as an Alliance, not weaker. A key part of our response is what I call Smart Defence - a new way for NATO and Allies to do business. Faced with fiscal austerity, and defence budgets under pressure, this is about doing more by doing it together.

I outlined it last year, in this very same conference room. And at our NATO summit in Chicago in May, I expect all Allies to commit to it. Because Smart Defence is a long-term strategy to deliver the right capabilities right across the Alliance.

But capabilities alone are not enough. These capabilities need to be able to work together – and our troops need to be able to work together too. This is what some in NATO jargon call, "interoperability", but I believe it is more than that.

It’s the ability to connect all our forces. Common understanding. Common command and control arrangements. Common standards. Common language. And common doctrine and procedures. It concerns everything we do as an Alliance.

For over six decades, North American and European forces have trained, exercised and operated alongside each other here on this continent. They developed the human and technical links and the trust that ensured they worked effectively side by side.

With defence cuts on both sides of the Atlantic, we need to look at new ways to ensure that Europeans and North Americans can continue to act together - including in the most dangerous and demanding of situations.

Our current operations have been a real-time, real-world driving force for improving our ability to work together – and, when necessary, to fight together. Not just among the twenty-eight Allies, but also with our partners around the world. Five in our Libya operation, seven in Kosovo, and twenty-two in Afghanistan. This is invaluable experience we cannot afford to lose.

For all these reasons, we need an initiative to complement Smart Defence. One that mobilises all of NATO’s resources so we strengthen our ability to work together in a truly connected way. I call this the, “Connected Forces Initiative”.

I see three areas where this Initiative could help to enhance our unique capacity to work together. They are: expanded education and training; increased exercises, especially with the NATO Response Force; and better use of technology.

First – training and education. NATO already has outstanding education facilities, including the NATO School in Oberammergau, just down the road from here. And our joint training centres – in Poland and Norway - offer unique opportunities for our forces to train and learn together. As do our Centres of Excellence, which cover a wide range of specialist skills, such as cyber defence, counter terrorism and protection against roadside bombs.

We need to see how we can get even more value out of them, and perhaps also open up the extensive range of national facilities. To help maintain the skills and expertise that give our forces their edge.

Second – increased exercises, especially with a strengthened NATO Response Force.

Exercises allow our troops to practise what they have learned. To provide realistic and challenging scenarios. And they make working together second nature when it comes to complex joint operations.

NATO’s own exercise schedule has been reduced in recent years because so many of our troops were deployed on operations. But as we draw down from these, we should build up our exercise programme again.

We already have the perfect framework with our NATO Response Force. It is at high readiness, and brings together multinational and joint components from land, air, sea, and special forces. I welcome the recent decision to rotate combat units from an American-based brigade through Europe to participate in the NATO Response Force as announced by Secretary Panetta today. This is a significant contribution, and exercising more with it would be a really good way of bringing together troops from all NATO nations, including the United States. Operationally, this would strengthen the Force and our Alliance. And politically, it would provide visible assurance for all Allies.

Third, and finally, better use of technology.

Working effectively together does not mean that everyone should buy the same equipment. But it does mean that everyone should be able to use that equipment effectively, together with other nations.

NATO standards make that possible. Smart Defence, too, will help. But today, we still face situations where it just can’t be done. And we must work to overcome such instances.

Let me give you one concrete example. My own country, Denmark, operates F-16 planes bought from the United States. But during the NATO-led operation for Libya, it became clear that they were not capable of carrying French munitions. So a universal ammunition adaptor is now being tested to overcome this problem. It’s a bit like a plug adaptor for planes.

We already have this ‘plug and play’ approach. It brings together different types and generations of equipment through a common connector. For example, Missile Defence connects American and European assets into a single NATO system. This shows that the cost of developing a connector can be cheaper than developing new compatible equipment. At times, it can be the best way to minimise cost and maximise our security.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The commitment of Allies should not only be measured by how many troops or bases we have, but by how much we do together.

Interoperability. Connected forces. Whichever term you use, it’s in the Alliance’s DNA. It’s what makes the Alliance unique. And it’s what gives the Alliance its true strength.

It’s also what makes the Alliance a hub for security cooperation, and the partner of choice for many nations across the globe.

And it’s why the Connected Forces Initiative is a key to our continued success.
Thank you.