Secretary General Rasmussen, distinguished Heads of State and Government,
As President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly it is an honour to address this distinguished gathering as you continue to transform NATO into an Alliance for the 21st century.
I am privileged to represent an organization of parliamentarians from across this Alliance, and on their behalf, I would like to address three points of key relevance to us: the new Strategic Concept, the Alliance ’s role in Afghanistan, and public communication.
Today, you will finalise NATO’s new Strategic Concept that will enable the Alliance look to the future with confidence. The NATO Parliamentary Assembly was pleased to give our recommendations on the Strategic Concept to the Secretary General in April and I am sure that these will be reflected in the text you adopt.
We believe that NATO can and should pursue a limited range of new missions while maintaining its fundamental commitment to common defence. NATO’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances makes it a strong and vibrant force for international stability. And the new Strategic Concept is a chance to state that although what the Alliance does may change, why we act and the values that we share are constant.
NATO’s mission in Afghanistan is, of course, constantly adapting to changing circumstances. There is no need here to stress this mission’s importance, but I would like to underline that the training mission in Afghanistan is key to the transition. But transition is a process, not an event, and not a “rush to the exit”. It will take time and require us to provide more support to Afghan authorities even as NATO’s combat role becomes smaller.
It is often said that there is no military solution to the situation in Afghanistan, but we cannot ignore that the military provides the security which underpins all the political, economic and diplomatic elements of the mission strategy. All of those elements are vital to ultimate success, and we should appreciate any national contribution that moves us towards the goal of a stable Afghanistan. The elements of a comprehensive strategy are in place, but we still face the challenge of maintaining public support to see it through to a successful conclusion. This leads me to my final point—the centrality of public communication.
What you discuss in this room is important. But even more important now is how we communicate the purpose of the Alliance to our citizens. They need to understand that the peace and stability they enjoy depends in part on the actions of North American and European militaries working together to improve stability, provide disaster relief and – if necessary – help to address threats in regions far from the Euro-Atlantic area.
This is a job for us all, and one where parliamentarians play a central role. We are an Alliance of democracies, and public support for our efforts in Afghanistan and elsewhere is essential. As elected representatives of the peoples of our nations, we can encourage public discussions about NATO’s missions and build support for them. Parliamentarians can help the public understand why NATO acts and why it is important for their security.
Distinguished leaders, our Alliance faces daunting challenges. But I am confident that it can meet those challenges, and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly will play its role by helping to promote the values upon which our Alliance is founded, by helping you to adapt the Alliance to the demands of the 21st century, and helping to communicate the central importance of the Alliance to our publics.