The Atlantic Alliance in the 1990's
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 18 Jan 1990, p. 158-167
Worner, Dr. Manfred, Speaker
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1989 as a key year in history: a brief review. The cases of fundamental change. "The significance of 1989 is that the great struggle between collectivist ideology and the Western liberal tradition is practically decided. … now we must prepare for the new world of the 21st century … " A series of questions directed at the Atlantic Alliance and its future tasks. NATO's reaction to change. Tasks to be done. NATO as a political Alliance with political goals. Shaping events towards an Alliance vision. The subject of whether or not the Alliance is still necessary. Three pressing reasons why the Alliance will remain a fundamental instrument. NATO as an obstacle to overcoming the division of Europe? No, and why. Three main political tasks for NATO in the nineties. The 21st century as the age of the Atlantic civilisation and the Alliance as a primary tool to advance and defend the interests of the nations belong to that civilisation in a fast-moving world.
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18 Jan 1990
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Full Text
Dr. Manfred Worner Secretary General of NATO
Chairman: Sarah Band, President


Honoured guests, Head Table guests, members of The Empire Club. Through the 40 years of its life, NATO has honoured The Empire Club with a visit from most of its Secretaries General and we are privileged today to host the seventh Secretary General.

For many of us the word NATO slides quickly off the tongue, more because of the sound perhaps, than our understanding of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Sixteen countries make up this Alliance, which Canadian foreign affairs analyst Escott Reid once called, "...the North Atlantic Community." He wrote then, "The future of this real commonwealth of nations is hard to forecast".

Events of recent weeks have given sharp focus to the concerns he had nearly 25 years ago.

NATO is best known for its defense forces in Western Europe. However, this is only one of its many dimensions. The others include arms negotiation, aid development and cooperation in science and environmental concerns.

Dr. Worner's topic is titled An Enduring Atlantic Alliance. What great words for this fraternity of trust. Our guest is a Reserve Lieutenant Colonel jet pilot with 1200 flying hours. He is a specialist in International Law, and a former Chairman of the Defense Committee of the Federal Republic of Germany. His Canadian association is long and friendly. Particularly, we thank him for his part in Germany's purchase of the Canadair Challenger, and his selection of a Canadian as NATO's Assistant Secretary General. Our welcome today is only a small measure of our thanks.

Dr. Manfred Worrier:

The 1980's were such an extraordinary decade that I am certain all of you are wondering if the nineties will be able to sustain the pace. In particular, 1989 will be remembered as a key year in history. The collapse of ideological centralism in the East has opened new and hopeful vistas. We are caught up in a dynamic of history which is still a very long way from playing itself out. And it is the essence of such periods of transition that the daily speed of events somewhat clouds the broader picture. But we can at least be sure of one thing: the post-war period is at an end and the status quo is finished. Europe is now in search of a new form for itself. And the causes, if not the results, of fundamental change are clear: First is the manifest failure of communism. It began as a messianic ideology but has finished as a system in almost total disarray. Communism has proved incapable of solving the problems of modern post-industrial societies. It has not responded to human aspirations.

Second, the Western emphasis on freedom, human rights, pluralism and democracy has proved a greater inspiration across the globe than collectivism. Emphasis on the state and on centralized planning does not work. The success of our Western model has made the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe less and less tolerant of their own system.

Third, the process of Western integration, and of creating-European unity, is highly attractive and dynamic. It is exercising a magnetic power across Europe, forcing change and reform.

Fourth, and finally, it is evident that the cohesion and " solidarity of the Atlantic Alliance has paid handsome dividends. Our defensive capability held Soviet expansionism in check throughout the dark decades of the cold war; while our offer of dialogue made it clear to the Soviet Union that there was an alternative: peaceful change and renewal in cooperation with us. It took a long time but we knew our resolve would eventually induce the Soviet system to mellow. Our Alliance success is almost total.

The eighties were not only the decade of democracy but also of the technological revolution in information and communications. This has sustained the values at the core of our Alliance--freedom, openness, creativity--and favoured movement toward open borders, human contact, interdependence and co-operation. In the sixties the Berlin Wall was built to protect a regime against the desires of its own people. Today, breached by the acceleration of history, it stands as a monument to futility and self-destruction. Walls and barriers cannot repress human aspirations; nor can freedom and democracy be half-applied.

The significance of 1989 is that the great struggle between collectivist ideology and the Western liberal tradition is practically decided. There can be no going back in Europe. It has been the dominant theme of the 20th century, and has consumed for a long time the energies and imaginations of the brightest and the best among us. But now we must prepare for the new world of the 21 st century, and do what we can to help the transition to proceed smoothly. This is a time in which inevitably there are more questions than answers. Many of these are directed at the Atlantic Alliance and its future tasks.

- Has NATO reacted quickly enough to change? Does it view nostalgically the clearer battle lines of the Cold War?

- Is NATO losing its raison d'etre with the change in East-West relations? Is it now only a relic of the Cold War?

- Is the Atlantic Alliance an obstacle in the way of the political reshaping of Europe? Is it necessary to dissolve the two Alliances so that the division of Europe can be overcome?--If the Alliance still has a useful role to play, then what role? What will it look like in the future?

First, the subject of NATO's reaction to change. For 40 years, preserving our security was an urgent task, but the Alliance tried on numerous occasions to move beyond the Cold War. From the beginning, we have been a political Alliance of values, seeking both to defend and advance them. For decades we have offered the East active cooperation in building a new European order.

We have had to wait a long time for an affirmative Eastern response. But our goal has always been to transcend the status quo. It served Soviet interest, not ours. The Alliance is seizing its historic opportunity. NATO's May 1989 Summit set out our approach to building a new undivided and safer Europe. Our aim is not to have détente within the existing order of things but to reshape East-West relations completely. Words have led to deeds: the Allies have moved decisively to help the reformers in Central and Eastern Europe--materially and morally. We have all stated our interest in Gorbachev's success.

Since the NATO Summit last May, the Allies, either on their own or working through other Western institutions, have elaborated a three-part programme to support reform and democratisation in Eastern Europe. Short-term help like food aid and debt relief to give reform a breathing space; mid-term help to encourage Western investment and the establishment of market economies; and a longer-term perspective of association with the West's major economic and political institutions to facilitate co-operation and independence. Reform will not fail because of a lack of Western responsiveness. At the same time, however, we must be clearheaded.

The task is enormous. Success or failure in the East is not for us to pre-ordain; the governments that emerge there must take the hard decisions to break with the past. We can prime the pump; we can use arms control to create a more stable international environment; we can give all kinds of technical assistance, but the proverb is correct in saying that "You can take the horse to water but you cannot make it drink". This is no excuse for inaction. Successful reform is in our interest, but hopes must not run ahead of objective realities. Economic conditions in Eastern Europe are extremely serious; we are in for a long period of political instability and even unrest; popular expectations are rising and the ability of Eastern governments to fulfil those expectations is not promising. The Soviet Union retains enormous military capabilities and will not for the foreseeable future be a democracy. The military imbalance in Europe is still there and it will take time to adjust it to a new political environment. Facts remain facts.

We are not in the business of rescuing communism or stabilising dictatorships. Our assistance is designed instead to enable communism to phase itself out peacefully, giving way to free, pluralistic, market-oriented societies. This can best happen if conditions both within Eastern Europe and internationally remain peaceful. We have assured Gorbachev that we will exercise political and strategic restraint. We will not exploit the difficult situation in the East for unilateral advantage. And, as I told Minister Shevardnadze in December, we will use every opportunity to promote our Alliance vision for Europe in the year 2000.

- An end to Europe's unnatural division based on freedom and self-determination for all its peoples, including the Germans.

- A new security system which is truly stable and peaceful.--A new world order in which East and West would cooperate on the global challenges that will decide our common fate in the nineties: drugs, terrorism, hunger, the environment.

- A mature partnership of equals between North America and a United Europe.

So it is clear: NATO wants change. It is a political Alliance with political goals. We are shaping events towards our Alliance vision.

Then I would like to turn to the next question. Is the Alliance no longer necessary? Certainly NATO was set up in the late forties in response to a Soviet military threat; but the Alliance was designed to handle Western security needs in a more general sense. Today we can be pleased that Soviet expansionism is receding, but can we say that the West no longer needs an organisation to guarantee security and stability? Are there no risks bound up with a period of transition? The answer is clearly "no". The decline of the imminent threat does not mean that there are no dangers resulting from these turbulent times. Imagine for just one moment that NATO did not exist. Who would hold the free world together under such conditions? Who would keep the fate of the United States and Canada bound up with that of Europe? For can anyone imaging that Western Europeans can preserve stability in Europe without the continued involvement of North America? And who would co-ordinate Western policy towards the East so as to preserve stability while serving the cause of reform? Reform and stability are inseparable sides of the same coin. The answers to all my questions are obvious: NATO gives us unity and security. United we can shape history, divided we will fall victim to the history shaped by others.

So there are three pressing reasons why this Alliance will remain a fundamental instrument.

- the development of a new stable and peaceful order in Europe requires the active participation of the United States and Canada. This point cannot be over-emphasized.

- we cannot maximise our opportunities unless we minimise our risks. Control of historic change will be easier to the extent that we discuss our objectives and co-ordinate policies. NATO is the proven forum for this coordination.

- the Soviet Union will remain a strong military power. Power needs to be balanced and this cannot be done by Europeans alone. We must guard against setbacks and reversals. Moscow must never believe that it can solve its internal problems through the use of force. Diplomacy, economic exchanges and arms control can enhance our security; but at the end of the day only a secure defence and deterrence can guarantee our protection.

As a transatlantic community sharing a common destiny, as a platform for joint Western policy and as an instrument for the prevention of war, NATO will remain indispensable for as far ahead as I can see.

The third question is whether NATO is an obstacle to overcoming the division of Europe. The answer is an emphatic "no". No-one would suggest that this Alliance has been a brake on "Glasnost" and "Perestroika" so far. It is indeed hard to imagine that change in Central and Eastern Europe could have happened faster. Even Soviet leaders have begun to speak more positively of NATO. It is in their interest to have this stabilizing force around at a time of accelerating and unpredictable movement; for NATO makes us into a more reliable partner. The stability and political coherence which this Alliance provides are essential for the Soviet Union to tolerate, let alone instigate fundamental change. NATO has given all of Europe 45 years of peace--the longest period since Roman times--and we will continue to do so. But clearly this can be done in a cooperative context.

And what of the reunification of Germany? The Alliance supports a process in which the German people regain unity through free self-determination. This will be for the Germans themselves to decide, peacefully and democratically, respecting the relevant treaties and the principles of the Helsinki Final Act. This should take place in the context of European integration, and of this Alliance. And I think we should be clear that there is no fundamental conflict between the full participation of the Federal Republic in the Atlantic Alliance and the pursuit of this process of overcoming the division of Europe and of Germany.

What then will be the rules and tasks of the Alliance in the 1990's? NATO will have little prospect to succeed in one role--to be the motor and co-ordinator of change--if it suddenly drops the other--to be the guardian of stability and the source of security. Because war is less likely, we cannot afford to take its prevention less seriously. Its potential consequences are far too catastrophic for that; and we must keep up our guard as long as the USSR retains its military potential.

I foresee three main political tasks for NATO in the nineties.

First will be the establishment of a stable order of peace, built on freedom, human rights and self-determination, which gradually resolves the points of conflict that have long divided East and West. We can do this through negotiations and new agreements, and more durably by fostering in the East the creation of a democratic, liberal culture that will make the recourse to force--whether within or between nations--impossible. NATO, of course, is not alone in this task. The ongoing integration of the European Community is finally allowing Western Europe to assume a fuller share of Western responsibilities. The Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe is another important element, based on our values and vision. NATO's Foreign Ministers, at their meeting in Brussels last December, agreed to give the CSCE a new impetus, and extend its activities into areas of crucial importance for Eastern Europe: industrial regeneration, technical co-operation, the environment. But at the same time, we also made clear that we expect the present Helsinki undertaking on human rights and contacts to be fully respected first. And we also agreed to seek recognition of the explicit right to free elections.

We are not trying to impose a Western model on the states of Central and Eastern Europe. But I believe that societies truly based on democratic values, including selfdetermination and respect between the governing and the governed, are the basis of lasting peace, as we have seen among ourselves in the West. The countries of the East must decide on their own route to democracy and association with their neighbours. Rather than attempt to settle on a fixed mould now for our future European architecture, I think that we shall be obliged to look for flexible forms of co-operation that can be adapted to changing circumstances.

Our second task will be to create a new European security system. The elements of this new system must be:

- a defensive military force;

- the minimum number of weapons to provide maximum deterrence;

- rules to promote openness, confidence-building and totally reliable verification;

- more co-operation.

We have committed ourselves to a CFE agreement on cutting conventional forces by the end of this year, and I believe this will be achieved. This will be the most ambitious arms control agreement in history. At a stroke, it will remove 60 percent of all Soviet forces from Eastern Europe and oblige both East and West to destroy 100,000 individual items of equipment. Half the tanks in Europe will be removed. A CFE Agreement will be the first essential element in a more stable system. The way is already open for the Warsaw Pact to be restructured so that it is more like NATO: purely defensive and respecting the national sovereignty of all its members. Recent Soviet pronouncements give us hope that they also foresee a Warsaw Pact which will no longer be an instrument of central control and ideology.

A key job for NATO will be to conduct this reduction of forces in an orderly fashion. The Allies must continue to share the roles, risks and responsibilities of that defence. I stress that this will require the continued involvement of Canadian and US forces, even though there is nothing sacrosanct about precise figures.

It is essential that the Soviet Union believe that Canada and the US remain firmly committed politically to Europe. To believe otherwise would be a recipe for instability. Both President Bush and Prime Minister Mulroney made abundantly clear at our NATO Summit last December that their great nations remain committed to NATO and to European security. This is clearly in the Soviet interest as well. And in this connection, l want to commend Canada for taking the initiative to host the Open-Skies Conference which opens in Ottawa next month. The combined efforts of the Canadian and American Governments to bring this concept to realization will make an important contribution to greater trust and openness in EastWest relations.

The third task will be to meet global challenges with increased vigour. Problems of terrorism, drugs, and the environment cry out for coordinated action. The Alliance must serve more and more as a "clearing house" for Western co-operation beyond Europe and in the wider world.

Our values drive history. So we must nurture them through enhanced Alliance co-operation. The stronger the Alliance, the easier it will be for democratic values to take firm root throughout the world. President Bush has called for a "new Atlanticism". It is manifest that we must make full use of the one policy-making instrument that brings Europe and North America together with all their ingenuity and resources.

It is clear to anyone with a modicum of vision: the 21st century will be the age of the Atlantic civilisation and the Alliance will remain the primary tool to advance and defend the interests of the nations belonging to that civilisation in a fast-moving world. So are you not grateful, like me, that we do not have to invent it? Thank you.

The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by MGen. Reginald Lewis, President of the Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers of NATO and a Past President of The Empire Club of Canada.

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The Atlantic Alliance in the 1990's

1989 as a key year in history: a brief review. The cases of fundamental change. "The significance of 1989 is that the great struggle between collectivist ideology and the Western liberal tradition is practically decided. … now we must prepare for the new world of the 21st century … " A series of questions directed at the Atlantic Alliance and its future tasks. NATO's reaction to change. Tasks to be done. NATO as a political Alliance with political goals. Shaping events towards an Alliance vision. The subject of whether or not the Alliance is still necessary. Three pressing reasons why the Alliance will remain a fundamental instrument. NATO as an obstacle to overcoming the division of Europe? No, and why. Three main political tasks for NATO in the nineties. The 21st century as the age of the Atlantic civilisation and the Alliance as a primary tool to advance and defend the interests of the nations belong to that civilisation in a fast-moving world.