With Western economies improving slowly, and with security threats evolving from Africa to East Asia, the NATO alliance will press this year for Europe to increase its defense spending “in real terms for the first time since the end of the Cold War,” Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said today. The alliance will push its members for the increase at the NATO summit conference to be held in Wales in September, Rasmussen told an audience of foreign policy scholars, diplomats and journalists at the Atlantic Council.
Rasmussen, a former Danish prime minister, spoke in what may be his last major official visit to Washington as NATO’s twelfth secretary general. He will hand that job this fall to former Norwegian prime minister Jens Stoltenberg. Rasmussen opened his visit at the Atlantic Council with a speech that previewed the NATO Wales Summit.
Rasmussen identified security issues from North Africa to the Middle East to East Asia that are of concern to the alliance. He noted that two crises – in Iraq and Syria, and in Ukraine and Russia — are especially important as they churn just outside the borders of NATO member states.
“NATO is an insurance policy against instability,” Rasmussen said, invoking an analogy he uses often for the alliance. “All members must pay their premiums. And that premium has just gone up,” he said.
“Of course, national budgets have been under incredible stress. But things are changing,” Rasmussen said, in remarks prepared for his appearance. “Public finances are coming under control. And our economies are beginning to grow. I know that increasing defence spending is never easy. But in light of the threats we face, it has become a necessity.”
Rasmussen’s observations about the NATO Summit included these:
- “At our Summit in Wales, I expect all Alliance leaders to commit to change course on defense spending, to reverse the decline, and to back up that commitment with concrete action.” He noted that “Estonia has shown that, despite a severe economic crisis, it can be done. Estonia has joined the United States, Greece and the United Kingdom as allies that invest at least 2 percent of gross domestic product [the formally agreed NATO target] in defense. And I welcome the commitments of Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Turkey to do the same” within the next several years.
- At Wales, “we will ensure that NATO is always prepared, through our new Readiness Action Plan,” which will include a review of how the alliance’s forces are deployed. “And we want to further strengthen our NATO Response Force and Special Forces, so we can respond more quickly to any threat against any member of the Alliance, including when we have little warning.”
- “We will launch a Defence Capacity-Building initiative [to] allow us to help other nations build up effective defense structures and forces of their own.” Answering questions from the audience, Rasmussen noted that the development of local security forces, in strategically important countries such as Afghanistan, Libya or Ukraine, will enhance security in those regions and for NATO’s members – and do so at a vastly lesser cost than any eventual deployment of international forces.
- NATO leaders at the Wales conference also will approve incremental next steps in NATO’s cooperation packages with nations seeking to join the alliance, notably Georgia, Moldova, and Montenegro. While none of those nations will be invited this year to join NATO, “our door remains open” to aspirants, Rasmussen said.
The text of Rasmussen’s speech is below.
A Strong Transatlantic Bond for an Unpredictable World
A speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Atlantic Council of the United States in Washington.
(The secretary general was introduced by James Jones, the former US national security advisor and former Supreme Allied Commander Europe, who is a member of the Atlantic Council’s board of directors.)
Thank you, Jim, for that kind and very generous introduction. It’s wonderful to see you again. And thank you for your remarkable service over the decades – as a Marine, as the supreme commander of NATO forces, and as the National Security Adviser. And I remember with great pleasure our cooperation during your term as National Security Advisor. You know NATO from the inside, you know what it takes to keep the Alliance united, and your commitment to the transatlantic relationship is firm and strong.
Also a very big thank you to Fred, Damon, and your dedicated team here at the Atlantic Council. I truly value your strong commitment and service to the transatlantic community and to NATO.
Fred, it’s a great privilege and a pleasure to work with you. You’ve done an amazing job in making the Atlantic Council such an influential forum in international affairs in Washington and world-wide.
The Atlantic Council shapes and informs an important debate. On the challenges we face and the opportunities we must grasp in a world that is more competitive, dynamic and disorderly. Through your tireless work, you play a key role in keeping the bond between North America and Europe strong. Now and into the future.
We recently marked the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. A stark reminder of the horrors of war. But also of what is possible when our nations unite against tyranny.
Since then, the NATO Alliance has underpinned freedom, peace and prosperity across Europe and North America. Protecting our values. Individual liberty. Democracy. Human rights. And the rule of law.
Today, those values and our way of life are once more under threat.
We are surrounded by conflict, danger, disorder and autocratic regimes. An arc of instability from the Middle East to North Africa and the Sahel. Rising tensions and territorial disputes in Asia. And a revisionist Russia breaking international rules and undermining trust.
But Russia is not just trying to recreate a sphere of influence. It has dealt a dangerous blow to the international rules-based system we have built up over decades. And its illegal and illegitimate actions encourage other autocratic regimes to follow suit.
The best way to face such threats is clear. We must be confident in our values. Reinforce our readiness. And strengthen the transatlantic bond that remains the bedrock of our international order.
Since World War Two, the solution to every strategic challenge has been transatlantic. Be it the Cold War, the Balkans, Afghanistan, or the financial crisis.
America and Europe working together. Trading together. And, when necessary, fighting together. This is how we have protected our nations and promoted our values.
But even the most successful relationship needs work. We cannot take our transatlantic bond for granted. We must renew our commitment. And continue to invest time, energy, and resources, to keep it strong.
To meet the challenges we face, we need a truly integrated transatlantic community. And I believe there are three things we must do. Reinforce our economic ties. Deepen our personal and cultural links. And strengthen our security.
First, the economy.
Trade encourages the creation of wealth. It discourages conflict and conquest. It generates greater prosperity. And this in turn leads to greater security, as people do not want to put their prosperity at risk. So a healthy economy and sound security create a virtuous circle.
In today’s interconnected world, the link between economics and security – and between peace and prosperity — is stronger than ever. And it is particularly strong in the relationship between Europe and North America. Together, we represent the most powerful economic block the world has ever known. But with greater global competition, we need to work harder to ensure our prosperity for the future.
A Transatlantic Free Trade Area is a unique opportunity to reinforce our economic ties. And to lock in our prosperity.
The trade deals currently being negotiated between North America and Europe are the next step. And the right step. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will eliminate tariffs, cut red tape and open up new markets. It is potentially the biggest trade and investment deal in history.
Well, as a former Prime Minister, I know just how difficult trade negotiations can be. But we must look beyond the technical details. To see the big gains within our reach. And to move forward. Because this is an opportunity we cannot miss. To promote growth. Create jobs. And improve our quality of life.
We also need a new focus on energy security. Much of Europe is now reliant on Russia’s oil and gas. We have, so to speak, burned our way into a position of dependence. And as we see in Ukraine, Russia is quite capable of turning off the taps. Putting an end to that dependency is now of the utmost strategic importance.
European nations are already doing more to reduce this dependency. They are increasing their storage reserves. Engineering pipelines to redirect energy to where it is needed. And bringing in energy from other sources.
We must also find new ways to generate, extract and distribute energy. Be that oil and gas, or renewables. And we need to open our markets to each other. Because if you have to depend on anyone, it is better to depend on your friends.
And those friendships must be fostered.
So this is my second point. We have to deepen the personal and cultural ties that bind us so closely.
Thirty years ago, I came to the United States as a guest of the International Visitor Leadership Programme. I can tell you, a life changing experience. It helped me to know and appreciate this great country and its people. As many people as possible should have that same opportunity.
I want to further strengthen the personal bonds across the Atlantic. So, in preparation for our Summit in Wales in September, I asked young, emerging leaders from all nations of the Alliance how they think we should do it. And I would like to thank the Atlantic Council for facilitating this work. The results have been truly enlightening and valuable.
One of the main recommendations of the emerging leaders is to enhance mutual understanding between the nations of the Alliance through personal ties. And I think they are right. We need to increase our transatlantic student scholarships and exchange programmes. To increase our scientific and cultural cooperation. To appoint honorary ambassadors to spread the word about the value of the transatlantic bond and of NATO. And to form those lifelong relationships that have bound our people together for so long.
Now, my third point, underpinning everything we do, is we need to strengthen our security.
The English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, wrote of a world without rules. A world without security. He described this world as having no industry, no movement, no culture, no society. Of nothing but the continual fear of “violent death”. Of a world where the life of man was “nasty, brutish, and short.”
Security is necessary for us to live free from fear. But security takes work. And for 65 years, that work has been led by the countries of the NATO Alliance.
In today’s dangerous world, NATO must be ready to respond to whatever threats we face. To act quickly whenever, wherever and however needed. This means Europe and North America consulting together. Acting together. And sharing the responsibility together.
I know very well that, from this side of the Atlantic, it can appear that European Allies expect the United States to defend them, but they are not prepared to defend themselves. But I gave to say, this is simply not true.
Remember. During the Cold War, European soldiers were confined to barracks. Not so now. Europeans have placed themselves in the line of fire in the Balkans and over Libya. In Afghanistan, for every two American soldiers who have served, one European soldier has served with them. And many paid the ultimate sacrifice in our common cause.
Responding to Russia’s aggression in our Eastern neighbourhood, all twenty-eight Allies have stepped up to the plate to reinforce our collective defence. From the Baltics to the Black Sea, we have more planes in the air, more ships at sea and more troops on the ground. The United States took the lead. And its continuing leadership remains crucial. But most of the planes are European, most of the ships are European, and many of the troops are European.
This is NATO solidarity in action. Truly, ‘all for one, and one for all’.
But we must also plan for the future, and be ready to deal with any threats from wherever they come. So for our Wales Summit, we will ensure that NATO is always prepared, though our new Readiness Action Plan.
We are looking closely at how we deploy our forces for defence and deterrence. What combination of forces we need. Where they should be deployed. And their readiness.
We are also considering reinforcement measures, such as necessary infrastructure, the designation of bases and pre-positioning of equipment and supplies. We are reviewing our defence plans, threat assessments, intelligence-sharing arrangements and early-warning procedures.
We are also developing a new exercise schedule, adapted to the new security environment. And we want to further strengthen our NATO Response Force and Special Forces. So we can respond more quickly to any threat against any member of the Alliance, including when we have little warning.
But readiness requires resources.
So I welcome President Obama’s proposed one billion dollar European Reassurance Initiative. It shows the United States’ enduring commitment to the security of Europe. Now other Allies need to strengthen their commitment.
I am the first to say that some European nations can – and should – do more. NATO is an insurance policy. An insurance policy against instability. All members must pay their premiums. And that premium has just gone up.
At our Summit in Wales, I expect all Alliance leaders to commit to change course on defence spending. To reverse the decline. And to back up that commitment with concrete action.
Estonia, as an example, has shown that despite a severe economic crisis, it can be done. Estonia has joined the United States, Greece and the United Kingdom as Allies that invest at least 2% of the Gross Domestic Product in defence. And I welcome the commitments of Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Turkey to do the same.
And if all the European Allies spent 2% of their national income on defence this year, we would have another 90 billion dollars to spend. That is the equivalent of today’s defence budgets of Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Norway combined.
Now, I am not naïve. I know we will not achieve this overnight. But at the summit in Wales, we need to turn a corner. To start to see defence spending in Europe rise in real terms for the first time since the end of the Cold War.
Of course, national budgets have been under incredible stress. But things are changing. Public finances are coming under control. And our economies are beginning to grow. I know very well that increasing defence spending is never easy. But in light of the threats we face, it has become a necessity.
But of course this is not just about what we spend. It is also about how we spend. We need to focus on what we really need to keep our nations safe in the 21st century. On capabilities and skills for the future. And we must do more together, as Allies and with partners.
In Afghanistan we forged the biggest coalition in recent history. 50 nations from many continents united in a single cause. And in all our operations, from the Balkans to Libya, partners have made invaluable contributions. So we must maintain our political and military cooperation with them to build stability in the world.
We must also do more to help those who require our assistance to reform and develop effective local forces. In Wales, we will launch a Defence Capacity Building initiative. This Defence Capacity Building initiative will allow us to help other nations build up effective defence structures and forces of their own. So that they are better able to take care of security in their own region. And so we can project stability without always deploying large numbers of our own troops.
So our Wales Summit will ensure that NATO stands ready, robust and resolute to face the future.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are fortunate to live in lands that are free. But freedom is not a natural state.
It has been fought for. Suffered for. Died for.
To safeguard the flame of freedom, we must stand ready to protect and promote our values, stay strong, confident and united, and strengthen our transatlantic community.