Speech by Mme Michèle Alliot-Marie, Minister of Defence, at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (excerpts)

(...) The high calibre of your debates strengthens your institution’s relevance as a place for reflection on the major security challenges.

Your discussions are obviously linked to preparation of what is for the Alliance the important decision-making event of the Riga summit in October : reflection on the possible adaptation of NATO missions and partnerships, and continuation of the transformation of its structures.

Even more, in the multipolar world rapidly taking shape before our eyes, it’s necessary to help define together the function of our Alliance.

NATO’s role in the face of the new risks (I) involves adapting to optimize its contribution to our security (II).

I) In the face of the new risks, the Alliance, in France’s view, delivers real added value in the field of security.

The threat today is many-sided : terrorism, risks of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, perpetuation of regional crises, illegal migration, pandemics, exacerbated competition for scarce resources, deterioration of the environment - sadly, the list is a long one !

Obviously, the Atlantic Alliance does not have a remit to deal with all these threats itself. It is not equipped to do so, but delivers substantial added value on three counts :

- Article 5 of the Washington Treaty is the guarantee of our collective security.

Admittedly, with the end of the Warsaw Pact and the building of Europe, no member country any longer faces the threat of its territory being invaded.

Nevertheless, peace is never guaranteed. Who can say for certain that in 20 to 30 years’ time none of us will need the solidarity of our allies, in the face of a vital threat ?

- While there’s no immediate threat, we have to confront very many risks, starting with terrorism. So we have to be capable of preventing it and fighting it wherever it is hiding. This is the purpose of our collective commitment in Afghanistan.

We also have to deal with regional crises, the case today in the Balkans.

- Finally, NATO is a necessary forum for reflection on our security.

We must not dissipate our efforts in areas where the Alliance has no obvious added value. We have to be able to concentrate our energies on what is essential.

An effective instrument for military action

The Alliance’s main concern remains the successful completion of the important operations it is engaged in.

The first of these is, of course, Afghanistan. Today, new legitimate institutions are in place. They have started on the country’s reconstruction. NATO’s task is, however, far from finished. The terrorist threat is still significant ; the Afghan authorities still need our help before they can totally assume sovereignty.

We must, however, not lose sight of the fact that the foreign military presence must be just one phase. We mustn’t forget that our contribution will be effective when we have dealt with the problem of drugs, the revenues from which partly finance terrorism. The international community must mobilize to establish a viable replacement economy. There will be lasting security only if we address - under the UN’s aegis - the Afghan people’s economic and social expectations.

Kosovo will also remain a matter of concern so long as the various protagonists have not accepted a definitive status. We were all surprised by the events of March 2004. So let’s stay vigilant in order to support the political negotiation, which alone can achieve a settlement of this conflict.

In Iraq, the Alliance has a training mission. The extremely fragile security situation makes it a difficult one. The rebuilding of a united Iraq is our objective.

We know, however, that the key to the solution is a genuine agreement between all components of Iraqi society.

Finally, in Darfur, we have to help in the transfer of the AMIS mission (African Union Mission in Sudan) to the UN. The Abuja Agreement is a success, but it’s fragile. Strengthening the action of the Alliance and the EU is necessary in the spheres where African capabilities are the weakest.

So there’s still a need for NATO operations !

II) To optimize its added value, the Alliance has to pursue its transformation

At the Prague summit, we decided to give ourselves a rapid response capability, the NRF. This is a major initiative allowing the Alliance to take immediate action far from its borders and is contributing to speeding up modernization of member States’ armed forces.

France has put a huge effort into this, thereby demonstrating her commitment. We are happy that our American friends too have taken the decision to contribute to the NRF. I am therefore convinced that everyone will make the necessary effort so that in Riga we can declare the force’s full operationality.

This collective effort must not, however, replace every member’s essential effort on the equipment front. With the foreseeable increase in risks, every country must face up to its responsibilities.

It is illusory to think we can compensate for our weaknesses through collective funding ; we must ensure that these capabilities can be made available to the Alliance, ad hoc coalitions or the European Union, depending on the situation.

Finally, we need to ensure our forces’ interoperability. On this depends an alliance’s effectiveness. To go on operating together, we must prevent the establishment of too marked a long-term capability imbalance between the Allies.

Another objective is to ensure our resources match our ambitions. For some among us there is a strong temptation to want to go beyond our capabilities by entrusting to the Alliance missions for which it is not equipped.

Civilian reconstruction isn’t within the Alliance’s remit. Other organizations have more of the requisite skills and resources.

Let’s make sure we don’t weaken our operational capacity by seeking to extend our missions too far. The crucial effort on the equipment front must not be compromised by increasing the number of secondary activities.

Finally, we must take full account of the new reality of the development of Defence Europe. Four years ago, it had a virtual existence. Today it’s a reality in several theatres of operation ; in new structures such as the European Defence Agency, the 1,500-strong battlegroups and the European Gendarmerie Force, and in the common armaments programmes.

This new process is not being pursued to the detriment of the Alliance.

The complementary nature of NATO and Defence Europe isn’t an empty phrase. It is a strength for each of them.

Strengthening European capabilities is helping to consolidate the Alliance’s European pillar. The EU’s takeover from the Alliance in Bosnia, Macedonia, one day perhaps in Kosovo, is allowing NATO to concentrate its efforts on Afghanistan.

The two institutions have not got the same missions or the same capabilities. Because of the foreseeable increase in crises we’ll need both of them to act effectively. It presupposes our agreement to make the necessary efforts.

* * *

A few months from Riga and in the face of a delicate international situation, we must be conscious of our responsibilities. We must make the right choices.

Politically, we have to prove to the general public in our countries that the Alliance remains for us all an essential instrument of our security.

By seeking to tailor our alliance to the new realities, we must also make sure we avoid taking some wrong paths : an ill-considered extension of our missions or inappropriate political messages.

So let’s be careful not to present ourselves as an organization tasked with promoting democracy in the world, in the face of a Broader Middle East, China or Russia.

That would be counterproductive and risk encouraging a conflict of civilizations which we’re seeking to avoid.

Let’s not lose sight of our real raison d’être : a military alliance which allows us to command respect for our values and our interests. If we want to remain relevant, let’s pursue our effort to strengthen our operational capabilities. This way we will actually achieve the Alliance’s long-term survival and demonstrate our faith in the solidity of the transatlantic link./.

Dernière modification : 24/01/2008

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