SMART DEFENCE - Speech by NATO PA President, Dr Karl. A. Lamers
Conference on Smart Defence in South Eastern Europe
Regional Cooperation and Coordination
The Pooling and Sharing of Defence Assets, Specialization
Tirana, 23 April 2012
Ministers, dear colleagues,
This is a very timely and relevant event, and I would like to congratulate my friend Leonard Demi, leader of the Albanian delegation to the NATO PA, for the initiative of convening this conference on Smart Defense.
This conference comes just a few weeks prior to NATO’s Chi-cago Summit, where our Heads of State and Government will discuss the question of how to secure our level of capability, how to realize our level of ambition, which is outlined in the New Strategic Concept, in times of strong financial constraints.
It was the promise of security that attracted you, the countries in Southern Eastern Europe, to join NATO. You all worked very hard to become members of the Alliance. Bulgaria together with Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia joined NATO in 2004. In 2009, Albania, together with Croatia, entered our Euro-Atlantic family.
The economic recovery in our countries remains tenuous, and this obviously has an impact on our defence budgets. Our Alli-ance cannot ignore economic realities: It is increasingly difficult for NATO members to keep their defense levels and to comply with the obligations of collective defense. It became a real effort to match the conviction of Lisbon that NATO remains the fundamental cornerstone of our security and an important contributor to global security with deeds. The economic crisis is therefore challenging the main promise of the Alliance: To provide security in solidarity. Also in the future
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
A recent “Economist” headline read correctly “Pool it or lose it”. Indeed, it is five minutes to midnight. We need to act when we don’t want the economic crisis to evolve into a security crisis! Cooperation no longer is an option, but a necessity! Cooperating on defence, from procurement to training to op-erations, has never been more important. With collective so-lutions, countries can acquire capabilities they could not afford individually. With collective solutions, we can ensure that defence cuts in one country do not put at risk our ability, col-lectively, to respond to crises decisively, when and where needed.
This is the strong message that the Heads of delegation of our Assembly endorsed at their meeting in Ljubljana last month. And this is the message I will convey to NATO Heads of State and Government in my address to them in Chicago.
The declaration we adopted in Ljubljana calls on the Chicago summit to “produce a coherent, joint and long-term approach to smart defence”. What does this mean?
This means first and foremost a policy which prevents the fur-ther degradation of our defence capabilities. A shared approach to capabilities also means defining priorities collectively. It means that whenever we consider important national decisions, we must take into account the impact on our collective capabilities, and we must inform each other better and earlier.
Indeed, we left many chances for closer cooperation untaken in the past. But now, the circumstances have dramatically changed. This gives political momentum to multinational de-fense and helps the Chicago Summit to give life to Smart De-fense. Let me briefly elaborate on these new conditions.
1) The economic crisis has already led to a cut of 45 Billion Dollars in NATO defense spending. As NATO Secretary General Rasmussen said: “There is a point, where you are no longer cutting fat, you are cutting into muscle, and then into bone.” It is vital that our governments focus on recovering our economies. But economic development can only be achieved in an environment of security. Only by the ability of defending our societies, we can secure our economies.
2) Operation Unified Protector has been a true success. At the same time, it brought to light a number of critical shortfalls in our military capabilities in Europe, and our ongoing over-reliance on United States assets. We cannot close our eyes on this situation any more. We, Europeans, in particular, need to get more efficiency and synergy out of our aggregate capabilities, and fill the most important gaps. Whether we do this in the NATO framework or the EU framework doesn’t matter.
3) This is especially important as the recent developments – the Arab Awakening, the Libya Mission, the events in Syria - have proven that the main feature of our changing security environment remains uncertainty.
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have already seen some excellent examples of Smart De-fence in action, including air policing of the Baltic States. Also in Albania, Slovenia and in Iceland NATO allies participate in air policing projects. Another good example is the Allied Ground Surveillance capability, where a group of 13 Allies will provide an important asset which the Alliance will operate on behalf of all 28 Allies. Ten members and two NATO partners are participating in the Strategic Airlift Capability, we have AWACS and the Multinational Logistics Coordination Center. Also the Visegrad Group countries Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, where I’ve just been the week before, declared these days their readiness to support the Smart Defence initiative by concrete projects (EU Battlegroupp, common training). But we definitively need more of these positive examples to strengthen NATO’s efficiency.
NATO has already started to set up itself as an agency to handle the various technical challenges of Smart Defense. Special envoys have been announced, a new NATO procurement agency will be created. Although the technical issues seem to be manageable: At the end, Smart Defense initiatives are political matters with fundamental sovereignty implications.
In order to continue the list of already existing Smart Defense initiatives we must see clearly: Smart Defense can work only if there is trust, confidence, creativity, and political will. Victor Hugo already said: “People do not lack strength, they lack will.” Ladies and Gentlemen, we need to promote a new mindset to implement smart defense! We need to invest in confidence building and we need to create projects that take into account shared sense of identity.
And this brings me to this region:
I would like to congratulate and pay tribute to Albania for its leadership thus far in regional security cooperation. The Adri-atic Charter was signed here in Tirana nine years ago with the purpose of helping Albania, Croatia, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia prepare for membership in NATO.
Since then, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro have both joined what is now called the “A-5”. These countries realized that a step towards Euro-Atlantic integration for any of them was a step forward for all of them.
We welcomed Albania and Croatia into the alliance three years ago and they have proven a great asset. Other countries of the region are already today strong partners with troops serving in Afghanistan. We look forward to the day when all are full members of NATO. But already today they can contribute to our Alliance. As you know, one of the most important aspects of the New Strategic Concept is its emphasis on partnerships. Partnerships can contribute to Smart Defence – just look to the Strategic Airlift Capability! It is clear that we cannot outsource our security to non-members. But there is no reason to exclude partners to participate in providing collective security.
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
But as NATO has helped transform this region, so has this region contributed to NATO’s own transformation. NATO’s inter-ventions in the Western Balkans have helped to define what is today one of the Alliance’s key role: contribute to crisis man-agement in the Euro-Atlantic area and beyond. The progressive inclusion of countries of the region as NATO members has left a profound mark on the Alliance.
This region has lived through dark periods. But there is more in the history that unites the countries of South Eastern Europe than divides them. By cooperating, your countries can be a real force and significant asset to Euro-Atlantic security, both in keeping this region stable, and in projecting stability beyond Europe’s borders. With smart defence, your region again has a great opportunity to leave its mark on the Alliance, and lead the way. And this conference, dear Mr. Demi, is an important step forward!
So I very much welcome the debates you have been having over these past two days. As members of parliament, we have the responsibility to authorize the allocation of resources for national and collective defence, and we have the responsibility to explain these decisions to our publics. Our national par-liaments have a crucial role to play to ensure that when na-tional decisions are made, the impact on the collective capa-bilities of our Alliance are fully taken into account. But I am also convinced that we have a responsibility to be the drivers of a new mindset that smart defence requires!
I hope that this morning we can adopt the excellent declaration you have put forward. This will send a strong and positive signal to our governments, as well as to our citizens: A signal that we understand what is at stake, that we understand the urgency of promoting innovative solutions to continue providing security for our citizens and playing a role commensurate to our responsibility in the international arena.