NATO’s contribution to European Security

Address by Ambassador Dirk Brengelmann, NATO Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy, at the plenary session of the Conference on Military and Political Aspects of European Security, Moscow, 23-24 May




Ladies and Gentlemen,


It is a privilege to be in Moscow again and to be able to offer our NATO perspective on the key issue of European Security.


I am grateful to Defence Minster Shoigu and to Chief of General Staff Gerassimov for hosting this conference and for sharing their views. And I believe that in many fundamental aspects, NATO and Russia’s visions actually coincide, even with all the differences which some speakers have alluded to.


There are three main issues that I will address today.


First, European security and the stability in the Euro-Atlantic area are at the core of NATO’s business. We have been actively engaged, together with other international organizations such as the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the EU, in building the unprecedented stability we have in Europe today making use of NATO’s unique set of political and military capabilities.


Second, NATO is firmly convinced that security is both interconnected and inter-dependent. That it can only be fully achieved to the satisfaction of all European nations by working cooperatively together, including with Russia.


Among our partners, Russia holds a strategic place. We believe that NATO and Russia bear a joint responsibility for the security and stability of the Euro-Atlantic area. And we have already achieved much by joining our efforts against common threats and challenges.


And third, security and stability in Europe would be even better served if NATO and Russia found common ground on some other key outstanding issues, such as missile defence, reciprocal transparency and full respect for all our commitments.


Let me go into each of these three issues in more detail.


First, NATO’s contribution to the security of Europe has been most evident in its long-term commitment to the stability of the Balkans. The most recent and tangible example is last month’s historic agreement between Belgrade and Pristina, brokered by the EU. It offers a lasting solution towards regional peace. A key part of that understanding is that KFOR will continue to be a guarantor for security and stability for all in that region.


The NATO-led missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina – IFOR and SFOR – were aimed at ensuring the implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement, and at creating a safe and secure environment in the country. Russia, for its part, also made important contributions to both these operations, as well as to NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR).


However, our responsibility for Europe’s security cannot be confined only to the geographical borders of the continent. We have to realize that many of the recent threats and challenges to Europe originate elsewhere. Afghanistan is a case in point. Our significant security investment there has been to ensure that Afghanistan can never again be a safe haven for terrorists.


Ten years after the deployment of NATO’s International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF), we have helped the Afghan government begin its task of rebuilding a viable state. The Afghan National Security Forces have become increasingly capable, confident, and in command. By the end of next year, they will have full security responsibility and control over their entire country. Clearly, many challenges remain, but there is no doubt that today Afghanistan is more able and better prepared to tackle them than in 2003.


And NATO’s commitment to Afghanistan’s security is lasting. As the ISAF mission winds down next year, NATO will continue to provide training, advice and assistance to the Afghan National Security Forces. And we will continue to do that with the support of, and in cooperation with our partners, including Russia. NATO is also engaged in other operations and missions, in particular counter-piracy efforts off the Horn of Africa and our work on counter-terrorism.


This brings me to my second point, NATO’s special partnership with Russia. It is rooted in our core belief that only together can we build a lasting and inclusive peace in the Euro-Atlantic area on the principles of democracy and cooperative security. Our shared commitment to a stable, peaceful and undivided Europe, whole and free, and to the benefit of all its peoples, remains firm.


When NATO states that it wants to see a true strategic partnership with Russia, it is not simply rhetoric. We believe that NATO and Russia bear a joint responsibility for the security of the European continent and of the Euro-Atlantic area. This is why, in 2010 in Lisbon, the leaders of the NATO-Russia Council jointly stated, among other important issues, that the security of Russia and NATO is intertwined.


NATO and Russia have worked together to tackle more effectively a growing number of common security challenges. For example, we are working together to counter the threats posed by terrorism. We have already developed a technology to detect explosives in public spaces. We have also enhanced our capacity to protect our populations, infrastructure and territories from natural and man-made disasters.


While our forces served together in the Balkans, we also agreed the political aspects for a concept on joint peacekeeping operations. Our forces have worked together in the Mediterranean Sea and still cooperate closely in the Indian Ocean. We work together in the Cooperative Airspace Initiative and in the NRC Counter Narcotics Training Project for Afghanistan, Central Asia and Pakistan.


NATO’s and Russia’s joint efforts in securing the security and stability of Afghanistan deserve a special mention. The NATO Russia Council has played a vital role in improving the capacity of the Afghan National Security Forces to maintain an operational helicopter fleet. Together with other partners, NATO and Russia also cooperate actively in ensuring a smooth transit for ISAF-bound goods to and from Afghanistan. Clearly, we share a common vision of the usefulness of our cooperation on Afghanistan, and of its importance for the security of Europe and the Euro-Atlantic area.


And my third point today. We have to acknowledge that there are some issues on which NATO and Russia’s visions for Europe’s security differ. We have had disagreements in the past. We have not yet agreed on a way forward on missile defence cooperation.


Russia believes that a new Treaty is needed to address better Europe’s security needs. From our perspective, the security institutions we have created in Europe since the end of the Cold War – with Russia’s active participation and blessing – are not flawed. If they sometimes fail to live up to our needs or expectations, it is because member states lack consensus on a common vision for Europe’s security. What we need is political will to see through all our commitments, in full respect of international law. But I believe that we are now in a better shape to discuss and address any disagreements.


From a NATO perspective, these commitments are binding. As we stated in 1997, NATO has no intention, no plan and no reason to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of new members. 


NATO has also fully honoured its commitment to refrain from additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces. We have agreed that we would instead invest in infrastructure to ensure the necessary interoperability, integration, and capability for reinforcement needed to carry out our collective defence and other missions. We have respected this commitment, including with regard to our planned missile defence deployments, which are purely defensive.


Allies remain strongly committed to a strong, effective and verifiable conventional arms control regime in Europe, which takes into account Europe's changing security environment and the legitimate security interests of all. We still have the Open Skies Treaty and the Vienna Document 2011 but we already heard that the CFE Treaty is in critical shape. Allies are actively involved in ongoing efforts in the OSCE and in capitals, including this one. A number of proposals and ideas are currently being looked at. We hope that we will eventually be able to engage in new efforts in order to contribute to greater transparency, predictability and mutual confidence for all.


In 2010, in line with our core task of collective defence, NATO decided it needed to build missile defence to defend its European populations, territory and forces from a growing threat posed by the proliferation of ballistic missile technology. This is a threat we identified together with Russia when we agreed on a Joint Review of Common 21st Century Security Challenges. NATO’s decision was coupled with a strong offer to Russia, our strategic partner, to cooperate with us.


Both NATO and Russia’s missile defence needs would be better met if we worked more closely together. In this spirit, we have made a number of proposals to include Russian experts in the work of their NATO colleagues. This could include two joint NATO-Russia missile defence centres and reciprocal transparency measures to address concerns and avoid misperceptions. Such co-operation would not only provide the assurances Russia needs about NATO’s intentions. It would also bolster both our missile defense systems by increasing mutual security through a flow of information and confidence through transparency.


Russia remains engaged in a dialogue with NATO on missile defence cooperation. But it also continues to perceive a threat to its strategic deterrent and is claiming that only legal guarantees can provide it with the trust it needs to see NATO’s defensive deployments as non-threatening. Sergey Ivanov and all other Russian speakers have laid out their views again. So did Deputy Defence Minister Antonov in his BBC interview this morning, emphasizing in particular the issue of predictability. But I also recall the many Russian comments on Phase 4 of the European Phased Adaptive Approach which was recently cancelled by the US. So, what are the Russian reactions to that decision?


We, at NATO believe that these promises have already been made in Chicago by our Heads of State and Government. NATO has respected all its commitments meticulously. Our missile defense assets in Europe are designed to counter ballistic missiles originating from the outside the Euro-Atlantic area. These assets are, in our view, incapable of diminishing the effectiveness of Russia’s strategic deterrent. And our offer continues to be on the table. This is the strongest guarantee of our intentions. I am hopeful that a bilateral US/Russia dialogue on this and other issues could give new momentum to our cooperation.


Let me emphasize that trust and confidence cannot be self-generated. That they are also products of political will and of an investment in our partners’ sense of security and expectation for reciprocity. It is from this perspective that NATO has also made a number of offers to the Russian Federation that relate to greater transparency. Greater transparency with regard to our military exercises, deployments close to our borders, including non-strategic nuclear weapons, as well as more generally, with regard to our military strategy and doctrines.


We hope our offers will be taken into account seriously and reciprocated. Because European security would then benefit not only from a new level of trust, but it would also genuinely build confidence.


Finally, one word about the principles which both NATO and Russia are committed to and have pledged to respect fully. Specifically, the key principle of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states and their borders as recognised by international law and guaranteed by the UN Charter, which also excludes the presence of the armed forces of one nation on the sovereign territory of another without its consent.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


In conclusion, let me emphasise again that NATO remains fully committed to the security of Europe. It stands ready to work with Russia on conventional arms control, missile defence, and by offering transparency on a number of strategic stability issues in order to enhance trust and predictability. We remain convinced that a strategic partnership with Russia, with profound political dialogue and broad practical cooperation, is the only way to achieve the genuine stability and security in Europe that we all seek.


Let me also add a few personal comments. This is my last official visit to Moscow in my current capacity. I started working on NATO Russia relations 13 years ago when we had the Permanent Joint Council. I was also closely involved, together with Ambassadors Grushko and Kelin, in the Rome Declaration in Pratica di Mare in 2002. We have seen ups and down, in particular in 2008. But as I said, we can now discuss areas where we disagree. When it comes to political dialogue, it is now more real. And in terms of practical cooperation, it is at an all time high. Of course, we can do more. But before we go into overdrive highlighting our differences, we should recall this reality. Because what we said in Lisbon is true and because we live in the same Euro-Atlantic area.


Thank you.