Center for Strategic Decision Research


Europe’s Security and the New NATO

His Excellency Wolfgang Schüssel
Foreign Minister of Austria

This 15th NATO Workshop was held at a very special moment: it coincided with the visit of Pope John Paul II to Austria; some of the most prominent participants continued from Vienna to Salzburg for the World Economic Forum, where the implications of European Union enlargement were discussed; and Austria assumed the presidency of that Union only 11 days later. Though it would be fascinating to analyze the relationships among these different events at some length, in the interest of time I will limit myself to a number of general observations.

The momentous changes of 1989 will become irreversible only if all of us accept the belief that Europe represents a community of values. The need for including common values has been the constant message of the Holy Father, and is also the foundation on which organizations such as the European Union and NATO have rested since their very creation. We clearly owe a special debt of gratitude to the present Pope for the key role he has played in the march of Central and Eastern European nations towards freedom and democracy—Stalin’s famous question, “The Pope! How many divisions has he got?” has clearly proved irrelevant—but it is also true that the new Europe would never have come into existence if the divisions of NATO had not, during four decades, defended the interests of the entire community of free democracies—and therefore also the interests of Austria—with such determination and vigor.


I am aware that discussions during the Workshop centered on Europe’s security and the new NATO. But I also believe that none of us would ever have had the chance to discuss the new NATO and the new Europe if the “old NATO” had not worked the way it did! This is a simple truth that no European should ever forget.

In my opinion, the fact that Austria has assumed the presidency of the European Union (and that the 15th NATO Workshop chose Vienna as its venue) is proof of how much has changed in Europe, and in my own country, during the last ten years. Austria has, of course, been part of the family of Western European democracies since 1945; we have been active partners in the process of European integration from the outset. We applied for membership in the European Union at a time when the Iron Curtain still existed. But nobody can deny that the end of the East-West conflict greatly facilitated Austria’s accession to the European Union—and now also forces us to reflect about the future of Austrian security policy.

It will come as no surprise that the ongoing enlargement of the European Union and of NATO are developments that affect us in very direct ways. These two processes are, of course, autonomous, but they are linked by the very fact that enlarging NATO and the Union can help to anchor our neighbors in Central and Eastern Europe in a European system of lasting stability and security. Such a step is of course also in the national interest of a country that lies where Austria lies.

I see the enlargement of NATO and the European Union as acts of historical justice. I can still remember the dramatic days in 1956 when my family harbored Hungarian relatives who had been forced to flee from Budapest. And I will never forget the tragic fate of the “Prague spring,” the heroic history of the “Solidarnoscz” movement, and the courage of the millions who took to the streets all over Europe, in the summer and autumn of 1989, for our common European values.

These remembrances comprise some of the reasons why our very best wishes will go out to our friends in Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland when they join the Alliance in April 1999. They are also why we believe that all our partner countries in Central and Eastern Europe must have a clear perspective of membership in the European Union. Let me assure you that we shall consider the enlargement of the Union as one of the foremost priorities of our forthcoming presidency.


While some have tried to argue that NATO is a product of the Cold War and has therefore outlived its usefulness under the conditions of the new Europe, anyone who has witnessed what NATO has achieved in Bosnia will find this argument incomprehensible and useless. The same is true regarding recent developments in Kosovo. You just have to switch on your TV set to see Albanian refugees in Kosovo brandishing self-made posters bearing the inscription “Help, NATO, help!”

I have great respect for President Yeltsin’s efforts to exert pressure on the Belgrade authorities, but I remain skeptical about the commitments made by President Milosevic. I also believe that the message that EU heads of state and government agreed upon in Cardiff was as clear as could be. However, I still fear that the explosive situation in Kosovo remains the greatest challenge to European security, and that we may, once again, experience a situation in which NATO proves to be our last resort.

Austrian Support

It will not surprise you that Austria has always been particularly sensitive about developments in the Balkans; we just happen to live in the neighborhood of this geopolitical earthquake zone. Bosnia and Kosovo are actually closer to Vienna, as the crow flies, than most parts of Switzerland. IFOR and SFOR thus probably had a greater effect on our security environment than on that of most members of the Alliance. The same could be true if NATO is forced to become active in the Kosovo conflict.

That is why we recently made the decision to maintain our transport unit in Bosnia beyond June 1998, and why we will continue to support this NATO-led peace operation by granting the necessary transit rights. You can also count on our solidarity with all measures that the international community decides on concerning the dangerous situation in Kosovo, including measures that may require authorization under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations.


The security challenges that NATO is facing are undoubtedly different from those from the days of East-West confrontation. We are, thank God, no longer faced with the menace of a major conflict of continental (or even global) dimensions. But does this mean that NATO’s core functions in the field of collective defense are now unnecessary? And should we draw the conclusion that there is no longer any need for a strong transatlantic link and a substantial U.S. military presence in Europe? Coming from the Austrian Foreign Minister, my answer may surprise you, but it is a clear “no” in both cases.

Let me first comment on the issue of Article 5 guarantees. There has never been a time in post-war European history when the invoking of these guarantees was less likely. But if you lived in the part of Europe where Austria lies—and if you had experienced the calamities that have occurred at our own doorstep during these last years—you would never exclude the possibility that circumstances may change again. It does no good to sign up for fire insurance once your house—or your neighbor’s—has started to burn!

As a matter of principle, I am moreover of the opinion that there can be no lasting community of solidarity unless partners are able to count on each other’s support in the case of aggression. In fact, I believe that this not only holds true for NATO but will, in time, also apply to the European Union if the concept of a real and common foreign, security, and defense policy means what it says.

As to the transatlantic link, the developments of these last years have clearly underlined its continued importance. Everybody knows that Europe only came to grips with the war in the Balkans thanks to the transatlantic partnership; everybody is also aware of the simple truth that IFOR could not have developed the way it did if the U.S. forces already stationed in Europe had not been at the very heart of the entire operation. A strong—and continued—American military presence on the European continent is not only necessary in the interest of traditional collective defense, but it is also important for the structures of European crisis management to function effectively.


Having said all this I nonetheless believe that we Europeans must substantially develop our own capacities in the field of crisis management. I am happy to say that the Amsterdam Treaty helps to do this very thing. From our point of view, including the Petersberg Tasks in the European Union Treaty is also a useful step forward.

But we also know that these decisions must be seen in conjunction with NATO’s efforts to develop a European Security and Defense Identity within the Alliance—a goal that is shared by 11 of our 14 partners in the European Union. I am convinced that it would not make sense to duplicate existing structures and mechanisms that continue to work very successfully. We do not need international or regional organizations competing against each other. What we need is an intelligent division of labor.

Austria is aware that the Berlin decisions have greatly facilitated the development of a functioning European crisis management system. We also believe that the CJTF concept can make an important contribution to a European Security and Defense Identity and thus hope that its implementation will continue to move ahead. This would certainly also be in our own security interest. I also think that we should try to strengthen the links between all relevant organizations, in particular between NATO and the European Union.

The Madrid Summit rightly referred to the “common strategic interests” that “the Alliance and the European Union share.” But do we take account of this fact in everyday life? NATO and the European Union may have their headquarters in the very same city, but until now there have been no institutional (or even informal) contacts between these two organizations. I know that this is an issue that is cause for thought on the other side of the Atlantic, but I am also aware that some of our partners in the Union continue to view this question with great reticence. Nonetheless I believe that we should seek to establish a direct dialogue between these two organizations that are at the heart of the new Europe.


I am sure that this Workshop will give you a chance to review the fundamental changes that NATO has experienced during these last years. You will probably discuss NATO’s future strategic orientation. You will speak about the increasing importance of NATO’s new missions. You will evaluate the functioning of the NATO-Russia Founding Act and the NATO-Ukraine Charter—documents that provide Russia and Ukraine with decision-shaping and dialogue mechanisms that no other PFP Partner has at its disposal. You may also debate the potential of Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. And you will certainly consider the prospects of further enlargement of NATO.

In the course of your discussions, however, you may also wonder about future developments in Austria. If you look at what has happened in Austrian security politics since 1989, you will discover some remarkable changes.

There is now general consensus in this country that obligations of international solidarity, especially those that Austria has accepted as a member of the United Nations and the European Union, take precedence over obligations of classic neutrality. There is also agreement that classic neutrality does not make sense once the international community has decided to take common action against an aggressor or lawbreaker. We know that nobody can remain neutral in a conflict between the fire and the fire brigade.

We also share the Amsterdam perspective of a common European defense, and we are prepared to support the integration of the WEU into the European Union. We have just changed our Constitution so that we are able to participate in all areas of the European Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy, including future peace-enforcement missions. And as to PFP, we are interested in cooperating with Partners in the full range of peace-support operations.

I also hope that this important Workshop will help to shape Austrian perceptions of the Alliance—particularly because I am convinced that NATO will remain essential for the security of Europe—and thus for Austrian security.


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