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By Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO Secretary General
Text: rasmussen nato/20140319_nato_transcript.pdf
Review by David T. Jones

On 19 March, NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen addressed the Brookings Institution in Washington DC, regarding the Alliance and the evolving Ukraine crisis.

There were no surprises in his speech.  Rasmussen characterized Russian action in Ukraine as a “blatant breach” of international commitments and characterized the Crimea referendum as “held at gunpoint.”  The result was a “wake up call” for Europe-NATO and the “gravest threat to European security and stability since the end of the Cold War.”

Rasmussen condemned Russia’s action and warned against its consequences for Moscow.  He noted steps that NATO had taken to limit cooperation with Russia and augment security action, e.g., more Baltic air policing and surveillance flights over Poland.  He anticipated additional action would be forthcoming.

More generally, however, Rasmussen saw Russia’s action in Ukraine as “21st century revisionism” to “rewrite or rip up the international rule book” with a return to force as the determining factor in international relations.

Rasmussen refuted the dismissive sobriquet of NATO (“no action; talk only”) by noting a series of effective NATO action such as support for the United States immediately post-9/11; the ongoing NATO mission in Afghanistan during which for every two U.S. soldiers, there had been one European soldier also serving; Libya, where NATO effectively enforced a “no fly” zone; joint action to counter piracy off Somalia; and Kosovo where 31 NATO and European partners keep the peace.

Indeed, as a politico-military organization NATO remains invaluable because:

  • It provides political legitimacy beyond what unilateral action or “coalitions of the willing” can provide;
  • It has institutionalized political and military structures to facilitate crisis response.  The combination of standby reaction forces, deployable headquarters, and tested programs of cooperation make effective reaction possible.  Ad hoc responses are no match for NATO capabilities; and
  • NATO’s military strength is unique, serving as a “force multiplier” even for the strongest ally.

Rasmussen admitted frankly that Europe must do more in security terms ranging from increased defense budgets to filling “key capability gaps,” inter alia missile defense and cybersecurity.

He anticipated frank discussions at the forthcoming NATO summit in Wales later this year to enhance collective security.

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