Center for Strategic Decision Research



Towards a 21st Century Alliance

Ambassador Victoria Nuland
U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO

I am very appreciative of the opportunity to address the International Workshop on Global Security. It is a great forum to bring us together to talk about where the Alliance is today. I personally think that we are at one of those rare tipping points in history as a transatlantic community. We are at a moment where free societies, as a transatlantic community, have come out of the readjustments of the post-Cold-War period, have come out of the near divorce on Iraq, have decided we are going to stay in this marriage together. But I personally do not think we have spent enough time explaining to our publics what this marriage, what this transatlantic community, is about in the 21st century. Our leaders—Bush, Merkel, Blair, Solana—they are all saying very loudly now that we need each other. That is a very, very good thing. But how do you explain to our people what it means? And have we related it to what they care about?


What do our citizens, our nations, really care about? What is it that they want for themselves, for their kids? Are the views of families in North America the same as the views of families in Europe? You can tell I am a mom, and I think about this from a mom’s perspective. Do we really all believe that we need each other and that the institutions that bind us are important? I would argue, obviously, that they are and that we do, and that we care first and foremost, and we need to make this case to our publics, we care first and foremost, at the very local level, that our families can live in dignity, live in security and in freedom.

We also care because we believe collectively in the idea of progress, that we should live better and do more than our parents did, and that our kids should do better than we did. That is, after all, one of the great promises of a free society and one of the fundamental, undergirding principles that binds us. It is one of our values.

Above that, we care about human dignity for others. Our shared liberal democratic tradition does not allow us to check our feelings at the transatlantic border. It bothers us. It bothers our people when they see displaced kids in Darfur, when they see earthquake victims in Pakistan sitting in the snow, when they see golden mosques smashed in Iraq or Palestinian youth hurling rocks or wandering idly in the streets.

We also remember. We remember that not so long ago Europe itself was a strife-torn continent and it took all of us to put it back together. We have a common memory that we are important to each other and that we pay a high price when we are divided.

We also remember the cost we pay when we are late to come together. It happened three times in the last century, and I do not need to remind you of those incidents. I certainly do not need to remind this audience. And I would argue that as a transatlantic community, we were also late beyond our own space. We were late in Rwanda, and we paid too little heed to the gathering dangers in the sands of Afghanistan.

So the lessons of the 20th century are not just that we need each other, but that we must be engaged and vigilant so that we never again leave small things to fester and become large things that are still much harder to deal with. We have to act together and early, and we have to make a difference.


So the question is how to continue to do that better and better in the future.

First, we have to be strong at home, strong in protecting our own liberties, and strong in our commitment to open and tolerant societies, despite the global challenges pressing in on us. For Americans today, that means addressing the questions of social equity, immigration, and civil rights. It means reserving the open door that has made us such a strong nation of immigrants while ensuring security, equity, and dignity for all. And as you can tell, this also means in our post-9/11 world that we have to balance the basic human rights inherent to free democratic societies with the fundamental duty of governments to protect their citizens.

For Europeans, it means strengthening, deepening, and broadening the amazingly successful European project which has brought unprecedented peace and prosperity to this continent and has now become such a model and a magnet for others around the planet.

At the Wehrkunde Conference, Chancellor Merkel called on the U.S. to see Europe’s integration as an opportunity and we very much do. But if Europeans are challenged today, it is because as the European magnet grows in strength, you also face challenges in welcoming continued diversity in your societies, and in preserving tolerance, while protecting your national heritage and the rule of law.

But as we look at the challenges we face at home, we know—particularly the folks in this room know— that so many of our problems at home have their origins in instability, poverty, and bad governance along our borders and beyond. That is why it is so important that we stay together in turning the great power of our alliance outward to be exporters of prosperity, stability, and hope to those who live far from us so we can continue to live well and strongly. We do it in our own interest, we do it because our humanity and our sense of human dignity demand it, we do it together, and we do it early because we have learned the lessons of the 20th century.


This brings me to my day job at NATO. Why should people care about it today? First of all, because NATO today is an alliance that delivers; it is today one of the best examples of a strong and effective multilateralism. In the past year alone, NATO has conducted successful operations, and continues to conduct them on four continents.

NATO has undertaken its first large-scale humanitarian relief operation in Pakistan, and not only did we get into Pakistan to deliver some 500,000 blankets and clear hundreds of kilometers of roads and treat some 6,000 people in our medical facilities, but we got back out—and that is important. It is important because we turned that mission over to the Pakistanis, the U.N., and other entities.

We are obviously expanding in southern Afghanistan. I know Jim Jones talked about that at length. We are taking a majority stake with the Afghans, obviously, in that country’s prosperity.

And we are supporting the AU in Darfur, bringing our own lift, our logistics, and our training to make that mission a success.

Today’s NATO is a far more flexible instrument than it has ever been, and it is where North America and Europe meet as peoples. It is our only permanent structure together as a transatlantic family that has a proven track record of effective action against common challenges.

But, first and foremost, NATO is a political instrument. It is where we say together that Afghanistan matters, we care; Darfur matters; training Iraqi security forces matters; bringing relief to Pakistan matters; keeping the Balkans, Georgia, and Ukraine on a reforming path matters.

Europeans and the EU, as an institution, can do that alone and it helps. Americans can do it alone and it is better than nothing. But when we do it together, the difference is dramatic. Things actually change.

So what are we doing at NATO Headquarters to strengthen this vital tool of common-will action, which has served us so well in the 20th century, for the 21st century, which is even more complex? I would argue as we head towards Riga—and I know you have talked about some of the pieces of this over the conference and you will as you go forward—we believe that NATO needs to be strengthened in three essential pillars: politically, operationally, and as an exporter of security training.

The Political Challenge

First, politically. Two years ago, Chancellor Schroeder called for a deepening and broadening of the transatlantic political dialogue. It took us some time to come around, but we did, and my President is as strong a supporter as is Chancellor Merkel. As we head towards Riga, I think we have done a good job of broadening the conversation of NATO, which frankly shrunk over the period of the 90s to lots of discussion only about where we were operationally, the Balkans, and some discussion about expanding freedom. But today at NATO we are talking about Middle East peace, we are talking about energy security, we are talking about Africa, we are talking about Iran at the level of foreign ministers. I brief on North Korea regularly, and we recently had a NATO-EU conversation about China in my living room. That is really important. Not because NATO is going to be the solution to all of those problems, but because when we use that transatlantic table to talk about all the challenges we face and the tools we have to address them, then we can work more smoothly on common actions in any organization or nationally where our interests converge.

So we need to continue to deepen and strengthen the strategic dialogue so that when our leaders meet in Riga they will have a spontaneous conversation among them about whatever is on their minds without having to think, “Is this a NATO issue?” No, it is a transatlantic issue and we are going to talk about it because we care.

Partnerships are the next large political issue. NATO has done a good job, as has the EU, in creating strong partnerships to mentor and strengthen countries around its periphery. In the NATO context, we are talking about countries from Sweden out to Tajikistan or along the Med littoral or now in the Gulf, and bringing them into our operations if they are interested to create the ability to work together.

We believe that, as we head towards Riga, it is time to take a broader view. These partnerships that are regionally based have served us well, but they have also become somewhat constraining. Countries that are partners of ours are sometimes limited by the regional box they find themselves in as to the kind of relationship they can have with NATO.

Then we have some countries that want to do more with us that have no box. And then we have other countries that we should be encouraging in their relationship with us that we are going to have to plug in. Those who have no box—Japan, Australia, which this summer, as Jim Jones probably told you, becomes a NATO troop-contributing country, or South Korea—all these countries are starting to play a larger security role globally and want to work with us.

Afghanistan. There is no PFP or other box for Afghanistan. They now want a strategic relationship, and they want an ongoing training relationship.

Mongolia has been knocking on our door and has been told it is geographically inappropriate.

And what about India? Doesn’t it make sense as India becomes more and more of a global force, a strong democracy, that we should be encouraging dialogue with the Alliance? But there is no place to do it now.

So, as we head towards Riga, we would like to see a much larger box of NATO partnership tools with which we can strengthen our relationship with existing partners and welcome other partners. Some people have said to me, this sounds like encirclement of China. My answer to that is if China wants a relationship with NATO, let’s build that box big enough so that she can have one too.

The other political aspect is the relationships between the two great multilateral institutions on this planet: NATO and the EU. Look around the world today. In almost every major theater of operation, we need NATO and we need the EU, and we need them to work better together. It is, forgive me, stupid that we cannot have the kind of flexible operational conversations we need to broaden and deepen what we talk about in Brussels.

Regarding NATO and the U.N., NATO has worked for the U.N., and the U.N. has worked for NATO on and off. We need a formal liaison relationship. And one between NATO and the AU, obviously, in Darfur and beyond. That is the political challenge.

The Operational Challenge

Afghanistan. We are well on it. It is our biggest challenge. We must succeed. We must succeed at the high end of the operation in nesting out the Taliban and turning the tide on the increasingly criminal drug-based culture and providing security; but we must also operate effectively across the full spectrum of stability and reconstruction. We must help train the Afghan National Army, we must help train the Afghan National Police, and we must provide stable neighborhoods for good governance to grow among the Afghans. It is our biggest test.

Kosovo. An enduring mission, a very important year—we must continue to keep faith with each other.

As we strengthen our missions we must also strengthen our arsenal of capabilities. You all are here to look at the fantastic aerial hardware available to us. Unfortunately, our alliance today does not have enough lift. I would argue our transatlantic community, including the EU, does not have enough lift. We are hoping on the road to Riga, we are having a very serious conversation at NATO about how we can offer more options to more nations to meet strategic lift requirements, and I am hoping something good will hatch by Riga.

Special forces. Many of us are operating with special forces, but our special forces do not operate well together. By the time we head to Riga, we would like to have an integrated ability for special forces in the alliance to work together and force multiply their efforts.

Deployable assets. As we work at strategic distance we have got to have deployable coms. We have got to have deployable logistics. We have got to buy more of this in common so everybody does not have to buy it and take it home when they leave. We are working on all of those kinds of things.

The NATO Response Force is obviously our premier capability, which I am convinced will be fully operational, and has already proven itself, when we needed forces fast for Pakistan.

Security Training

The last pillar is training. This is one of the most successful things allies have done for each other. Throughout our history, we have trained and integrated our forces. We now believe it should become an increasingly strong export and, in fact, a pillar of Alliance work in the 21st century. How much better is it to strengthen the regional forces in other parts of the world than to have to send our own soldiers?

Look at what NATO is already doing. We trained more than 2,000 Iraqis last year in Baghdad and we trained more in our own schools. Our Darfur mission, which is right now a logistical improvement mission, something the United States hopes will become an embedded training mission over the summer. How much better is it to do that kind of mission than to have to shoot our way into Darfur? If we can strengthen the African Union, if they can succeed on the way to a U.N. mission, then they will be more capable in the future to handle more of their own problems.

We also should expand our schooling. The United States, with some of our allies—Italy and Norway—is trying to establish a Middle East Training Center. We believe that the countries of the Mediterranean Dialogue region and the Gulf are much more ready to work together in defense of common security than they were just ten years ago. We see it in the Mediterranean Dialogue, in the work they are doing with us in controlling the Med. We think that with a permanent center in their region we would be encouraging them to train and school together at NATO standards. We would bring more allies to them, and we would create a culture of commonality in defense of our security from the threats that we share, whether it is WMD, terrorism, or weak borders. So, training is an investment we should make in that region.


Of course, we are committed to keeping the alliance’s door open. We have candidates—Georgia, Ukraine. Like the EU, NATO has already accomplished so much as a mentor and a magnet for democracies. But our membership must still be performance-based. We do not think anybody is ready this year but we want to see more candidates ready for our next summit in 2008.

All this talk and all these plans will not do much good against the threats that we face unless we can sustain the investment, the political will, and the capital to do all that we said that we want to do. It requires vision and leadership, not just at the NAC table but in capitals, in the press, with people, with the next generation, to sustain popular support for these kinds of shared commitments.

Today I would argue that it is just as important as strengthening our capabilities and our political will as capitals and leaders, that we have the strength and popular support for our great alliance. As our colleague Kai Eide likes to say, we have got to get what we do at NATO from the summit table down to the kitchen table. So I would ask all of you, who I know are strong supporters of this alliance and invested over many, many years, to help us with that as we head towards Riga. I truly worry that there are very few people in my country under the age of 40 who could tell you what NATO is doing today, and even fewer who are willing to invest in it. So help us get this message out there and help us get it to the kitchen table.


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