Address at Nato Defense College

Nato is as relevant today as ever



Honorable President Lamers, Honorable President La Loggia, General Dalaugh, Ministers Di Paola and Terzi, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Thanks for inviting me to speak at the 58th General Assembly of the Atlantic Treaty Association, which has played since 1954 and continues to play a public diplomacy role that is more and more crucial today, in order to promote a better understanding of NATO’s policies and goals in member and partner countries in different regions of the world. 

It has become, indeed, fashionable to periodically question the relevance of NATO. I would argue that not only is NATO as relevant today as ever but also that NATO is as needed in today’s security environment as ever. 

After the Cold War, starting with the Rome Summit in 1991, the Alliance’s Strategic Concept has been revised three times, until 2010. NATO opened its doors to new members, enhanced its capabilities and developed partnerships in different areas of the world, building a new culture of cooperation in the security field. 

I do believe that this has been a most successful transformation both on a political, diplomatic and military level. NATO has become today a unique source of political and military flexible capabilities to manage successfully the 21st century’s fast changing international security environment, projecting security and stability through partnerships, while continuing to provide for the defense of its members.This new and broader post Cold War concept of security is characterized by multifaceted and multidimensional security challenges and threats. 

These emanate from international terrorism, conflicts spill over from failing and failed States, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery means, the protection of sea lanes of communication and energy supply routes, as well as cyber security, that includes the protection of digital infrastructures from which our economies and our military security depend on. Cyber defense, in particular, given the total asymmetrical way of the threat, could also give a new meaning to articles 4 and 5 of the Washington Treaty; this is why the Allies need to define the role NATO, as an Organization, should play defending member countries from cyber-attacks. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, NATO has been learning important lessons from the crises it has managed, but also from those that affect, like Syria, Mali or Sahel, regions of strategic interest to the Alliance. The lesson is that investments in modern capabilities are needed more than ever, despite pressures on defense cuts coming from the global economic crisis. 

The Alliance has started rightly to examine the impact of defense cuts on its ambitious and credible management of security operations. 

Initiatives like the EU’s pooling and sharing, or NATO’s Smart Defense, or the Connected Forces Initiative could be not enough to compensate for the considerable expected defense cuts in the near future. 

I am convinced that defense cuts which the Allies will be forced to make as a consequence of the current economic crisis should be coordinated through NATO, instead of being undertaken through unilateral national decisions. 

This would require coordinated political choices, instead of horizontal cuts, and so optimize defense spending, facilitate high-end capabilities, avoid national duplications and create economies of scale. The global crisis, in short, should not affect the primary good represented by the security of our States and citizens. Clearly, complementarity of efforts between NATO and the EU, which share 21 members, will be crucial to allow maximizing practical ways to provide security, while minimizing costs to all member countries of both NATO and the EU. 

Equally important will be for NATO to deepen ties to other international institutions that it has been in touch with in recent years, namely the Gulf Cooperation Council, the League of Arab States and the African Union

NATO’s partnerships with countries in the Mediterranean Dialogue, in the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, or with JapanNew Zealand and South Korea, help us promote a better mutual understanding between NATO and a large number of countries of different cultures, thereby preventing conflicts but they also help us build the political consensus and military interoperability required to manage successfully complex crises when they occur. 

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, In concluding my remarks, I would like to underline the unique functions that I believe NATO continues to play today. NATO is most of all to me the embodiment of the transatlantic partnership between Europe, the United States and Canada. A partnership based upon the enduring and shared values of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law, as well as upon the shared interests of ensuring the defense and well-being of our countries by projecting security and stability internationally. 

This is what makes our transformed and transforming NATO still relevant, attractive to new partners and to potential new members and still needed today.

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