New Challenges to European Security and NATO
His Excellency Valdas Adamkus
President of Lithuania
Not so long ago, for a number of European states, my country was probably just a small piece of land behind the Iron Curtain on the northwestern fringe of the Continent. Today, Lithuania is part of a united Europe that already considers the Singing Revolution as a piece of the past. In the context of all these changes, I would like to share Lithuanias vision for Europe and some possible ways of contributing to its further prosperity.
THE BALTIC SEA REGION
With the end of the Cold War, new challenges and threats have emerged in Europe and particularly in the Baltic Sea region, which we consider to be an inseparable part of the Continent. Those of us who live in the region have always been Europeans who, however, against our will, were cut off from Europe for 50 years. Now, since our return, we seek to consolidate our place in the European community by joining the ongoing integration process that is enabling development of a free economy and social well being. I am therefore convinced that we are united not only in our wish to integrate, but also in our determination to combat the common challenges and threats ahead of us.
We live in a rather secure Baltic Sea region, created by ourselves and with the assistance of supporting states and modeled after a system based on genuine values, such as democracy, a free market, the rule of law, and individual freedom. We have been driven by the goal of becoming a full member of the Euro-Atlantic community and its principal organizationsthe European Union and NATOwhich cherish and protect these values.
Not all regions, regrettably, can boast of stability today. Conflicts that have flared up in Southeastern Europe have proved the rightness of the long-standing argument that crises have no respect for borders. But such challenges have actually united us, because it is only through joint efforts that we can effectively combat cross-national threats. Our goal is to create a safe and secure environment for all states.
THE NEW NATO
Europe has built a network of interrelated and complementary institutions of cooperation. Nobody would argue, however, that NATO, which had ensured the security of the Allies throughout the Cold War and successfully continues its efforts in this direction today, performs the leading role in the field of international security. The Alliance, on the other hand, is faced with the necessity to adapt to the changing environment by designing mechanisms that will break the old psychological stereotypes, invigorate cooperation among partners, open the door to new members, and provide for an effective fight against the new challenges.
NATO has proved its ability to resort to decisive action, for instance, by effectively and successfully stopping the bloodshed in Bosnia and Herzegovina. At the same time, the Alliance has demonstrated flexibility by assuming the crucial task of ensuring peace outside its area, in addition to its commitment to collective defense under Article 5. It is an essential step which confirms both the willingness and the ability of NATO member-states to address the problems endangering the integrity and security of Europe, not only by concerted political measures but also by military instruments.
All of us today are concerned with the developments in Kosovo. They are a potential new source of discord in Europe. Lithuania welcomes the decisions of the European Union and the North Atlantic Alliance that encourage the conflicting sides to search for compromise. The main task of the Alliance, however, is to be always ready to address the causes of conflict and eliminate their consequences.
With great attention, we are following the Strategic Concept review process that was adopted by NATO eight years ago. On the one hand, the Alliance must adapt to the new realities of European security policy because today NATO is the only organization able to sustain a strong U.S. commitment to Europe and, along with other European institutions, to react to new challenges of either regional or European concern. On the other hand, the greatest challenge to NATO lies in its ability to retain its essential dimensionthe commitment to collective defense enshrined in Article 5. This is the main reason why NATO members, despite the changes that have occurred on the Continent, continue to work to maintain the North Atlantic Alliance.
The creation of a common secure transatlantic area for all is feasible through the use of instruments designed to enlarge the circle of cooperating partners and involve them on a larger scale into multilateral projects, linking them at the same time by the bonds of common values that prevent sudden political changes. These instruments would include the Partnership for Peace cooperation program, consultations in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, a joint program with Russia under the Permanent Joint Council, the NATO-Ukraine Commission, and the Mediterranean dialogue.
LITHUANIAS CONTRIBUTIONS TO A STABLE EUROPE
Lithuania has been a NATO Partner since 1994. We support the concept of indivisible European security and, since the restoration of the independent State of Lithuania, have been contributing to its creation. We are ready to support new NATO missions, not only because we are aware of our responsibilities on our way to membership, but primarily because we understand the universal nature of the new challenges and have experience that could prove beneficial in ensuring stability throughout Europe.
How has Lithuania contributed to the enhancement of stability and prosperity in Europe and the transatlantic area? First, by promoting and strengthening good relations with its neighbors. For example, our relationship with Russia is a constructive one. On his recent visit to Vilnius, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeniy Primakov confirmed that Russia is satisfied with the development of its bilateral relations with Lithuania, and considers Lithuania a very important partner. We are always engaged with our neighbors in a wide range of common issues that may lead to intensified relations in a variety of fields. Most important, in this case, are mutual respect and adherence to international law and international commitments. In addition, successful cooperation between our countries is facilitating the development of democratic reforms in Russia and helping to breach old, often psychological, barriers.
Lithuanias desire to join NATO and its positive relations with Russia are, in our view, complementary processes and are not developing at the others expense. We believe that in the years to come Russia will recognize that the membership of Lithuania and the other Baltic States in the North Atlantic Alliance will be advantageous because it will extend the zone of security and stability and provide yet another incentive for stable and mature relations between neighbors.
Our membership in NATO, I am convinced, would not impede the development of bilateral relations between Lithuania and Russia. On the contrary, it would upgrade both their quality and purpose. Security is our shared interest and a starting point for cooperation. Just as NATO and Lithuania do, Russia should contribute seriously to security and stability in Europe. Intensified NATO-Russia relations should become a cornerstone of the new comprehensive European security architecture. As a member of NATO, Lithuania could contribute to strengthening these relations, a point that makes a strong argument for Lithuanian membership in the Alliance.
Reliable Defense Forces
Our second contribution to strengthening transatlantic security is the building of a reliable and compatible defense force capable of defending our country, ensuring our national security, and contributing to crisis management in Europe. Lithuanias rapid economic development, increasing foreign investments, and growing competitiveness in the world market have allowed us to increase defense spending, modernize our armed forces, and seek interoperability with NATO. Our defense spending has increased significantly to 1.5 percent of GDP in 1998, and should reach 2.0 percent by the year 2000 and 2.5 percent by 2005. These larger funds have enabled us to acquire strategic equipment such as anti-tank anti-air weapons, communication systems, and transport vehicles.
Crisis Prevention and Peacekeeping
Our third contribution is to crisis prevention and peacekeeping missions in Europe. We were among the first to join the Partnership for Peace program and to decide, together with Denmark, to send our soldiers on a peacekeeping mission to Bosniaa mission which subsequently grew into a most successful operation of the new NATO. We also provided humanitarian aid and financial assistance to Bosnia. Together with Latvia and Estonia and with the assistance of other countries we have also formed BALTBAT, a joint peacekeeping battalion from the Baltic States that has a planned mission this year. Additionally, our police forces participated in a mission in Croatia and are scheduled to leave for Albania to participate in the Western European Union MAPE mission.
Our cooperation with Latvia and Estonia has grown, with the assistance of other BALTSEA countries, beyond the Baltic peacekeeping battalion project. Today, there is a long list of trilateral projects beginning with B that are either underway or being developed. These include BALTRON, a mine-sweeping squadron aimed at producing a cleaner and more secure Baltic Sea; the air surveillance system BALTNET; and the Baltic Defense College, which will train our officers according to NATO standards.
Our enhanced relations with our strategic partner Poland are also not confined to declarations. This year, we will complete the establishment of the joint Lithuanian-Polish peacekeeping battalion LITPOLBAT, which we expect to be a significant contribution to European security.
Strong European and North Atlantic Relations
Our fourth contribution is our growing relationship with EU and NATO member-states. Integrating the partners with both the European Union and NATO, I maintain, will contribute greatly to the further development and strengthening of mutual relations. I do believe that cooperation between all the states of the region and EU and NATO countries will result in peace in the Baltic Sea area. EUs enlargement, plus NATOs open-door policy and the support of both of these organizations, have already helped us achieve remarkable stability in the region. We are pleased that our efforts to that end were noted in the Madrid Declaration.
NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, who visited Vilnius in June, gave a positive assessment of Lithuanias efforts to integrate with the Alliance, increase its defense budget, participate actively in crisis prevention and peacekeeping operations, and maintain exemplary relations with neighbors. These contributions form the bedrock of our strategy to enhance stability and security in the region and to integrate with Euro-Atlantic structures.
NATO member-states have made the first step by opening the door to the first three new members. We welcome the decision made at the Madrid Summit to invite the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland to join the Alliance. With their admission, NATOs security zone will draw closer to our borders, and our security will only increase. The enlargement of the Alliance is an inseparable element of the new security environment advocated by NATO. The prospect of membership has already had a major impact on the scope of cooperation among the states that wish to join and are ready to assume responsibilities. This prospect is helping to overcome internal constraints, continue political, democratic, and economic reforms, and enable armed forces to meet NATO standards.
Today, four years after the start of the enlargement process, I believe that the Alliance should continue to expand for the very same reason it decided to enlarge in 1994. It is said that prevention is the best form of crisis management. By inviting new members, the Alliance will boost prevention by enhancing the European zone of stability and security. As part of the Alliance, I am certain that a secure and stable Baltic region will contribute even more actively to the ongoing process in Europe.
In the near future the Alliance will successfully conclude the first round of enlargement. But the process of enlargement should continue. We hope that at the Washington Summit the leaders of NATO member-states will not only announce the admittance of new members and approve a new Strategic Concept, but will also reinforce NATOs commitment to the open-door policy.
We also hope that preparations for the Washington Summit will include assessing the progress made by aspiring states, including Lithuania, and their contributions to enhancing stability. We support the aspiration of Romania and Slovenia, and hope that the next phase of NATO enlargement will include Romania, Slovenia, and Lithuania, as well as other Baltic States. This step would ensure a balanced Alliance expansion in both Northern and Southern Europe.
Having lived a major part of my adult life in the United States, I believe that NATO, as President Clinton said, can do for Europes East what it did for Europes West: prevent a return to local rivalries, strengthen democracy against future threats, and create the conditions for prosperity to flourish. Present-day reality demands that we open ourselves to the world and that we broaden the conventional perception of Europe as a security zone that ends at the boundaries of Western Europe. We must work together to meet the new challenges. Time does not stand still and we must begin now so that we do not remain living in the past.