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Transatlantic Relations
R. Nicholas Burns, U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO

Remarks at Forum Bundeswehr and Gessellschaft 2004
Berlin, November 8, 2004


Thank you for the opportunity to be with you in Berlin this afternoon. I would also like to thank the forum organizers: Ms. Friede Springer, Mr. Mathia Dopfner, and Christoph Keese. They should be congratulated for having put together such a high-caliber event.
Most of all, I was happy to accept the invitation of my friend, General Klaus Naumann, to be here. No German represents better the life and thought of the Atlanticist tradition of modern Germany than Klaus.

We Americans and Europeans meet in Berlin at an auspicious time for our countries and for the Transatlantic Alliance.

Europe has recently taken a giant step forward with the signing of your new constitution in Rome. Congratulations on this historic advancement for European unity, which is positive for Europe and for a healthy relationship with my country.

The United States has just completed an important election in which Americans voted in record numbers to return President Bush to office.

In the wake of these two events, all of us now need to return to the work of rebuilding the Transatlantic relationship. For Americans, that will mean, as President Bush said on Friday, working closely with NATO--our most important alliance worldwide--and the EU. Americans know we need our allies and partners in Europe to be successful in all the work NATO has taken on--for peace in the Balkans, a successful stabilization in Afghanistan, and to help build a new and stable state in Iraq.

For Europeans, I hope it means that you will put behind you any past disagreements with my country on Iraq and join us in all we must do to use NATO as a force for peace and stability in Europe, the greater Middle East, and beyond.

My message today is straightforward: my government believes that NATO has a leading role to play in the war on terrorism. But we need to work hard to ensure the Alliance has both the political will and the military capabilities to meet today’s daunting security challenges.

Germany, as always, is a vital ally in NATO’s new missions, with its leading role in the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. In particular, Germany’s decision to place its Provisional Reconstruction Teams in Konduz and Fayzerabad under ISAF control helped set a precedent for other allies as NATO builds its peacekeeping mission in the north and west of the country.

Moreover, we are encouraged that Defense Minister Struck is implementing reforms within Germany’s military that will make it a more agile and deployable fighting force in the future.

All these positive trends show that Germany recognizes how and why NATO needs to change in an era where the threat of a massive Soviet attack has been replaced by the more elusive but no less dangerous specter of global terrorism combined with weapons of mass destruction.

That said, the NATO allies need to do more and, frankly, spend more if the Alliance is to succeed in its transformation.

This past June, Istanbul, a city that straddles Europe and Asia, played host to the leaders of the 26 NATO nations. This beautiful and historic city, a gateway between East and West, provided a fitting backdrop for a summit that sought to extend NATO’s reach beyond its traditional area of operations here in Europe to those places that are on the front lines of the global war on terror--the Middle East, North Africa, and South and Central Asia.

Much was at stake in Istanbul. In spite of our differences over the war in Iraq, the attacks of September 11, in Istanbul itself, and in Madrid clearly demonstrated the need for NATO to continue to transform into a more agile military alliance, one that can successfully meet the new threats posed by global terrorism. This modernization process is critical to the long-term health of the Alliance and, by extension, the security of the United States, Canada, and Europe.

Alliance leaders united to produce a bold vision in Istanbul for a re-invigorated Alliance--intensifying efforts to stabilize Afghanistan in the run-up to October’s presidential election, initiating a collective Alliance role in Iraq’s reconstruction, engaging the Muslim countries of the Middle East in a constructive security dialogue, and expanding NATO’s work with our new partners in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Although these constitute just some of the accomplishments of the NATO summit, they convey the sense of NATO’s resolve to be active at the forefront of this new century’s great struggle to promote democracy and preserve peace in a world threatened by global terrorism.

State of the Alliance

The three years since September 11 have been a time of extraordinary change and challenge for the NATO Alliance. As I enter my fourth year as the U.S. Ambassador to NATO, I can personally attest to the many great things we have accomplished together, as well as to the considerable difficulties we have had to--and have yet to--overcome. The Transatlantic Alliance, the most vital force for peace in Europe since World War Two, has been driven by controversy over the war in Iraq and, more broadly, how most effectively to wage the global war on terror.

This debate has prompted some pundits in Europe and the U.S. to grimly predict the imminent demise of the transatlantic partnership and even NATO itself. Of course, none of this is new. We have all heard this kind of doomsday negativism before. It is grossly exaggerated and deeply destructive, masking not only all that we have done together to counter terrorism since 9/11, but also our long-term collective self-interest to maintain a Transatlantic Alliance that works.

I can assure you of one irrefutable truth--the NATO Alliance is not heading for a separation or divorce. We will keep this marriage together because it is in our clear mutual interest to do so.

Let me offer three reasons why Transatlantic cooperation may be stronger and more resilient than the critics will allow:

First, the Transatlantic debate over the Iraq war, while noisy and animated these last two years, is not a unique event in the post-World War II history of the our Alliance. Remember Suez, the Skybolt Affair, Vietnam, the deployment of Pershing missiles in the '80s, and our big disagreements over Bosnia a decade ago, all were touted as evidence in years past that NATO was on the verge of a break up. It didn’t happen then and it will not now. Since NATO’s inception, the transatlantic relationship has been characterized by ups and downs. We are, after all, not the Warsaw Pact requiring a rigid orthodoxy of thought, but an alliance of democracies with the right to independent and critical thought. At each of these crisis points, NATO unity has bent but not broken, and we have emerged stronger for the challenges ahead. I predict the same renewed unity in 2005, as we all agree to put the Iraq debate to rest and focus instead on supporting the first democratic elections in that country’s memory.

Second, I believe the great majority of Europeans and Americans understand a central fact--our security is indivisible. We must stand together because we need to meet the challenges of the modern world as an alliance of shared values and goals.

Simply put, NATO will stay strong because our mutual interests demand it. European Allies continue to rely on the U.S. for the nuclear and conventional defense of the continent. Of the many issues being debated for the new European constitution, for example, one that is not is the need for an overarching European security umbrella to maintain peace on the continent. No such initiative is needed, because NATO and the U.S. provide that now, as we will in the future. Europe also needs NATO to project power beyond the continent.

It is also undeniably true the United States needs Europe. We have a $2 trillion economic relationship that is by far the largest in the world. We Americans cannot confront the global transnational threats that go under, over, and through our borders and that are the greatest challenges of our time, without Europe. Weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, the huge increase in international crime, narcotics flows, trafficking in human beings, global climate change, AIDS--there are no unilateral solutions to these challenges. Instead, we can hope to succeed only through multilateral cooperation, especially with Europe. There is a saying in the U.S.--"We all live downstream." In an era of globalized threats, no matter where we are in the world, we live downstream. What happens in one region of the world affects all others.

Third, when all is said and done, the U.S., Canada and Europe are natural allies. We are the most like-minded peoples on the planet, sharing a common history, common democratic values, and an interconnected economy. NATO will stay together because we need each other and because we want the same future of stability and peace.

The real question, in my view, is not whether the U.S. is committed to working through multilateral institutions--President Bush made it clear at NATO’s Istanbul summit in June that the U.S. advocates the most ambitious use possible of NATO to confront the broad range of security challenges facing Europe, Canada, and the United States. Rather, it is whether all of us are ready to put past differences behind us and work together to build an Alliance that is strong, effective, and engaged. This is what we did in the Cold War, in the Balkans, and it is what the U.S. is committed to doing today to confront the terrible threat of terrorism and the proliferation of WMD.

NATO: What We’ve Done

I believe NATO is, by far, the most effective vehicle for multilateral action available to Europe, the U.S., and Canada. NATO is still the vital core of the Transatlantic relationship. It offers the only forum in which the U.S. and our European allies work together every day to confront the major security issues of our time. It also brings together the NATO Allies and the Partnership nations--Russia, Ukraine, and our friends in Central Asia and the Caucasus--in a way that reinforces the common values we share.

During the past several years, in fact, we have accomplished the most fundamental re-tooling of the Alliance since its creation in 1949 in order to meet these challenges. For those who argue NATO is no longer useful, consider the fact we’ve made more progress reforming it in the last five years than in the previous five decades:

NATO has adopted a leaner and more flexible 21st century command structure, and created a new Alliance Transformation Command in Norfolk, Virginia--plugging European allies into cutting-edge changes in technology and doctrine in the U.S.

NATO has created a new Chemical, Biological, and Nuclear Defense Battalion spearheaded by the Czech Republic along with 12 other Allies, to protect our civilian populations in the event of an attack using weapons of mass destruction.

NATO Allies agreed to acquire a range of new military capabilities necessary for the expeditionary missions far from Europe--modern airlift and refueling, precision-guided munitions, air-to-ground surveillance, combat service support--redefining the way allies plan and think about our national and collective defense.

And, in perhaps the most significant shift to a 21st century fighting force, NATO has built a new Response Force to give us the ability to deploy troops rapidly within days to perform any mission--whether it be a hostage rescue, humanitarian relief, or response to a terrorist attack--in another part of the globe. The NATO Response Force has just been deployed to Afghanistan, where it provided increased security for the successful presidential election last month.

Our major priorities in 2005 are to acquire advanced military capabilities to give NATO’s decision-makers and military planners additional technological flexibility--such as Alliance Ground Surveillance, an integrated Air Command and Control System, Missile Defense--to defend against the new global threats and generate decisive action when we need to.
The revolutionary changes in NATO’s military capability have been buttressed by equally significant political progress:

NATO’s enlargement by seven countries in 2004 extended our sphere of security eastward while consolidating the democratic revolution in the former Warsaw Pact countries. Forty percent of NATO’s members are now formerly communist countries--that statistic, perhaps more than any other, conveys the historical significance of NATO’s post-Cold War transformation. These new allies are stalwart Atlanticists and helping us augment our operations in the Balkans and Afghanistan, as well as new mission in Iraq.

We have also initiated new partnerships with Russia, via the establishment of the NATO-Russia Council, and further defined our special relationship with Ukraine in the NATO-Ukraine Commission. While off to good starts, both of these forums can be strengthened in 2005 to bring about closer cooperation with two critically important countries on a range of transnational issues, most importantly terrorism and nuclear proliferation.
But NATO’s transformation, while extensive in breadth and scope, is far from over. Much hard work needs to be done if NATO is to remain the linchpin to our common security.

Which brings me to the issue of NATO’s military capabilities. The reality is that NATO must be able to project its forces well outside of Europe wherever they are needed in our increasingly dangerous world. The static defense NATO employed so effectively here in Germany during the Cold War is woefully inadequate to meet the security challenges of today’s world. The need to enhance the speed, mobility, and reach of Alliance forces, first highlighted in 2002 at NATO’s Prague Summit, remains just as critical today. NATO cannot project stability to places like Afghanistan and Iraq if it does not have rapidly deployable--and sustainable--forces and the means to deploy and sustain them. As NATO Secretary General de Hoop Scheffer succinctly put it: "We must make sure that our means match our ambitions. There simply is no other choice."

But NATO’s grim reality is that only about half of all Allied countries are seriously modernizing their armed forces and adapting to today’s requirements for greater agility and mobility. Modernization demands a significant financial commitment. And yet a number of Allies, including most notably Germany, spend well below the NATO standard of 2% of GDP on defense. The U.S. will spend over $400 billion on defense this year, the 25 other allies combined will spend less than half of that. Moreover, 11 NATO countries spend over 60% of their defense Euros on personnel costs--not on badly needed transport aircraft or combat service support equipment. These dismal figures add up to a crisis in capability for NATO. This Alliance cannot rely solely on a few of its members to do all of the heavy lifting. When we launch operations in Macedonia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, or Iraq, it is the same countries being asked to do the bulk of the work, because they are the countries with the money, or the deployable soldiers. In order to meet the ambitious agenda put forward in Istanbul, NATO will need stronger capabilities across the board.

In addition to the technology gap between us, there is an even more critical "usability gap." Of Europe’s 2.4 million men and women in uniform, only roughly three percent can now be deployed on our priority missions in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Declining budgets, poor training and standards, and a continued reliance on conscription account for a Europe that cannot put a sufficient percentage of its troops into difficult missions against 21st century threats. Again, Germany is one example of an ally that needs to do much more to confront this glaring weakness in Europe’s defense preparedness.


NATO’s agreement to establish a collective, permanent training mission in Iraq for the country’s new security forces was perhaps the Alliance’s most significant achievement at Istanbul. The United States strongly believes such training is critical to the long-term success of reconstruction efforts in Iraq, and it was President Bush who led the push to establish a NATO-led multilateral mission.

Last month, after a healthy measure of debate, NATO decided to expand the size and scope of its Iraq mission, agreeing to create a permanent Training Center at Al-Rustamiyah that will train mid-level and senior officers in Iraq’s security forces. NATO also chose U.S. General David Petraeus to command the mission, providing unity of command in Iraq’s difficult security environment and ensuring that NATO’s mission avoids duplication and meets the targeted needs of Iraq’s security forces. The U.S. has offered to provide to the NATO effort considerable financial and other resources--including trainers and soldiers to protect the force--as well as air and logistical support to help ensure the success of this collective NATO mission. Iraq’s Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, and President, Ghazi al-Yawar, have visited NATO to urge the Alliance to make certain this critical mission is fully operational as soon as possible. NATO’s Iraq mission confirms its determination to provide the stability needed to build the peace wherever it is most needed, no matter how difficult the circumstances may be--from Sarajevo and Kabul to Baghdad. We count on the full support of your European allies for this multilateral mission to succeed.


Also at Istanbul, NATO intensified its short- and long-term commitment to Afghanistan, where its leadership of the International Security Assistance Force is helping to stabilize the country and make sure it never again serves as a safe haven for Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.

This means NATO will extend its operations beyond Kabul to the major provinces and build on the highly successful Provincial Reconstruction Team program. These teams, known as PRTs, are playing an increasingly important role in helping Afghans build and repair damaged infrastructure, like roads, water wells and schools, and broaden the zone of security. Germany, in addition to its well-established operation in Kunduz, has added a second PRT in Fayzerabad, which achieved initial operating capability just last week. We now have five NATO-led PRTs in northern Afghanistan.

Our most urgent priority in Afghanistan this autumn was to provide security for the October Presidential election. Two battalions, including one from the NATO Response Force (NRF), assisted local authorities in providing security for the election. This action fulfilled NATOs’ promise to President Karzai at Istanbul to help the Afghan people exercise their democratic rights and make the successful transition to a constitutional, representative government.

But, in spite of this significant progress, NATO needs to do more and move faster. Over the past year, NATO has not acted quickly or resolutely enough in Afghanistan. Our European allies need to put forward the necessary troops for NATO to succeed. Looking beyond the election in October, it is urgent that ISAF continue with its planned expansion into western Afghanistan. As ISAF expansion proceeds, we will also need to look closely, as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld suggested last month, at bringing Operation Enduring Freedom and ISAF together under a unified NATO command. At some point, it will no longer be possible--or desirable--to maintain two separate military operations in Afghanistan, especially as the OEF and ISAF begin working in the same areas of the country.

Reaching Out to the Greater Middle East

One of NATO’s greatest successes since the end of the Cold War has been its ability to extend the borders of peace and stability throughout Europe. In recent years, we have placed special emphasis on engaging with our partners in the strategically important regions of the Caucasus and Central Asia. NATO has made a commitment to support these countries' efforts to develop a closer relationship with the Alliance. Now, we believe NATO should expand its engagement with interested nations in the Arab world and Israel on security issues of mutual concern--such as the threats posed by weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, and opportunities to cooperate on border security and stemming all forms of illegal trafficking. The U.S. believes that NATO can add value as one of the key instruments for our long-term engagement in this important region. This is the logic behind the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, the Alliance’s effort to reach beyond our partners in the Mediterranean Dialogue to other states of the broader Middle East and North Africa and engage them in a strategic dialogue that could lead to tailored advice on military issues, cooperation on military exercises and training, and joint operations where our interests coincide.

NATO has consulted with the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) and Israel about their interest in participating in this NATO initiative, and we hope to broaden these consultations in the future. Iraq, for instance, should be approached about participating once the political transition has progressed further and stability is strengthened.

The Balkans

In the Balkans, NATO has been the most important force for peace in the past decade. NATO will soon conclude one of its most substantial accomplishments--its role in stabilizing Bosnia and Herzegovina. During the past nine years, NATO stopped the war in Bosnia and helped bring peace and stability to a people badly in need of it. As SFOR completes its mission, an exciting new chapter begins, one that points to more fruitful cooperation between NATO and the EU. The EU is preparing to pick up where SFOR left off, helping Bosnia and Herzegovina chart a course oriented toward the promise of future integration with Europe. NATO will still maintain a military headquarters in Sarajevo to help authorities bring Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, and other indicted war criminals, to justice, and to advise Bosnia on defense reforms and counter-terrorism.

Just as the SFOR decision acknowledges that Bosnia has begun to turn the corner, NATO recognizes the need to stay the course in Kosovo. Having successfully stopped the fighting and repression in Kosovo in 1999, NATO’s Kosovo Forces (KFOR) remain in the province as guarantors of the peace. KFOR has had to be prepared to deter both external and internal threats. The violence of March 2004 clearly demonstrated the fragility of a peace in Kosovo that exists in an environment of ethnic tension. It is no secret that some units within KFOR were unprepared to respond to civil unrest because of national restrictions that limited their use to more traditional military competencies. Even though KFOR successfully restored order within 48 hours, homes and churches were burned in Serb communities. The key lesson learned is that troops participating in all NATO missions must be prepared to undertake tasks, including crowd and riot control. We must ensure NATO commanders have the tools needed to carry out the missions we charge them with.

This was a significant issue for discussion among our leaders in Istanbul. We are now working to remove or reduce national restrictions on the use of NATO forces in international peacekeeping operations. The United States has no such restrictions, and our troops were sent into the streets in Kosovo and performed well, as did those of several other allies. We ask the same of all NATO nations. Our goal should be to eliminate all restrictions, which limit how our NATO commanders on the ground can utilize NATO forces.

I must also underscore the obvious fact that KFOR’s slow reaction to the violence does not absolve the leaders of the Kosovar Albanian community from their failure to address the violence. Ultimately, it is the people of Kosovo themselves who must ensure that all members of society are protected.


Ladies and gentleman, these are the major tasks before NATO as we near 2005. But if we are to be effective in all these challenges, Europe and America will need to establish greater political unity than we have had these last two years.

A healthy transatlantic relationship demands a close and productive partnership between the two great institutions responsible for Europe’s future–namely, NATO and the EU. Their dual enlargements last spring advanced our common goal of a Europe "whole, free, and at peace" and will likely do more than any other initiative to integrate Eastern and Western Europe for the first time in Europe’s history.

Bosnia is an area where NATO and the EU can successfully collaborate for the benefit of the long-term mission. We can further strengthen relations by avoiding a senseless rivalry in the defense sphere, improving defense trade cooperation, and working together to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. NATO, of course, must remain the key pre-eminent institution for Europe’s defense, but the choice is not, as some in Europe would suggest, between a Europe under the U.S. yoke or an independent Europe. We can instead choose a future of fruitful cooperation that will benefit North Americans and Europeans alike.

A few leaders on the Continent have called for Europe and the European Union to adopt a long-term strategy to become a counterweight to the U.S. This suggests that our future should be one of strategic rivalry and competition--the very antithesis of the transatlantic community we have built together since the end of the Second World War. Such a reversal would amount to a colossal strategic error. It would repudiate the primary factor that has produced two generations of peace and unparalleled security, prosperity, and unity in Europe--the commitment of the United States to the defense of this continent, and the existence of NATO. I do not believe that the vast majority of Europeans will support such a future or that it can even occur in an age of declining European military capabilities. But Europe’s responsibility to preserve healthy transatlantic ties, it seems to me, compels it to reject this competitive view of our common future and to avoid the gratuitous anti-Americanism that has been all too evident in European public discourse during the past year.

Americans, I would argue, understand they have an equal obligation to reject a unilateralist future and work instead to preserve the great multilateral institutions such as NATO that are so important for our common future. I believe we have, in the bold vision for NATO laid out in Istanbul, made great strides in our commitment to "effective multilateralism." The United States has demonstrated its genuine desire to see the new NATO act collectively. We hope now that our European Allies will agree to use NATO as dynamically as we wish to do in 2004 and for years to come.

It is true that acting in alliances isn’t sometimes as efficient as acting alone. Alliances don’t move as fast, and they may complicate our decision-making and even our tactics in the field. But alliances are very effective in producing sustained, long-term commitment in the most difficult crises, as we have seen NATO do so successfully in the Balkans.

The United States will continue to voice our commitment to multilateralism with Europe and in NATO. NATO’s numbers tell the story: we are a forum with 46 countries in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council; a partnership with 41 countries in the Partnership for Peace; a dialogue with seven Mediterranean states, and an alliance with 26 members. Where else but NATO could any of us replicate this vital web of multilateral relationships?

The United States stands ready to work with and through NATO, but we cannot do it alone. I find it ironic--and, I must say, disappointing--that, at such a critical time in our history, when the United States is seeking a more robust relationship with NATO, there are some allies who are resisting due to lingering resentment over the war in Iraq. We need a strong NATO to address today’s many challenges. The Allies laid out an ambitious agenda at Istanbul, and we must work together to realize it.

As I look to 2005, I am optimistic that this 55-year-old Alliance can overcome the great challenges of our era. NATO can play an decisive role in defeating the specter of global terrorism, in extending the zone of peace and security to new regions, and strengthening it within Europe. To do all of this, we will need to work together more effectively to overcome our differences, and to recognize the strength of our collective Transatlantic bond. Our terrorist adversaries consider democracies to be weak, but as NATO has demonstrated so effectively in the past and can once again, we are just the opposite: resolute and determined--and hopefully unified in 2005--to ensure a more peaceful world.

Thank you.

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Updated: February 2005