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Debate in Macedonia on NATO Summit: challenges and expectations

Speech by British Ambassador Charles Garrett at debate organised by the Euro-Atlantic Council of Macedonia in Skopje on 2 September 2014.

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Ahead of NATO Summit - debate on challenges and expectations
Speech by British Ambassador Charles Garrett at debate organised by the Euro-Atlantic Council of Macedonia in Skopje on 2 September 2014.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be here, and I would like to thank the Euro-Atlantic Council of Macedonia for this opportunity.

I receive regular updates from my colleagues in London with material about the Cardiff summit. They are full of amazing facts and figures. One of the claims they make is that this is the largest-ever gathering of Heads of State and Government in the UK. The figure they give is “over 60”, which is pretty big. But I’ve got news for them. Having been Head of International Relations at the London 2012 Olympic Games, I’d like them to know that over 80 Heads of State and Government attended the Opening Ceremony. But I do concede that the meeting later this week is just that little bit more important.

This is the first NATO summit to be held in the UK since 1990. That meeting, hosted by Margaret Thatcher, came on the back of the momentous developments at the end of the Cold War. That was a time of great hope, with extraordinary opportunities opening up. We have successfully seized many of those opportunities, in Europe, across NATO, indeed globally. This meeting, almost a generation later, comes on the back of further momentous, though quite different, developments. It’s clear that this summit will be just as critical as 1990 was to NATO and its partners.

I would like to say a few words about objectives, about the summit’s context, and about themes, all from a UK perspective.

It is worth recalling that, while the UK is hosting this summit, it is owned by all NATO allies. The overall theme for Cardiff is Building Stability in an Unpredictable World. The Secretary-General has set three overarching objectives. These are:

  • To consider the long-term implications of the Russia-Ukraine crisis and the changing geostrategic security situation on NATO’s borders. The UK will be looking to ensure that this leads to agreement on measures to reassure allies who fear for their security and to deter further Russian aggression.
  • To agree the next chapter in NATO’s relationship with Afghanistan.
  • To ensure that NATO is addressing the new risks and challenges from an unstable world of failed states, regional conflicts, terrorism and cyber-attacks.

As well as the Secretary-General’s objectives, we will be looking to secure commitment from European allies to increase defence investment, and to deepen existing partnerships through the interoperability initiative. And last, we will seek agreement on a North Atlantic Proclamation for the Armed Forces which is about committing allies to the fair treatment of NATO’s armed forces and their families.

The strategic context, particularly in terms of our relationship with Russia but also given developments in the Middle East, has clearly changed hugely in recent months. The summit needs to take this into account without letting it dominate. This is, after all, about NATO not Russia. We need a balanced discussion producing balanced outcomes that reflect all of NATO’s challenges.

On Afghanistan, we must follow through on the commitments made at Chicago in 2012 to provide financial support to sustain the Afghan National Security Forces, recognising the progress they have made since Lisbon in 2010.

More widely, the summit will need to build on its partnerships with other international organisations. NATO is at the centre of a broad, global network of security cooperation which is a key part of it strength.

Of the key themes, I have briefly mentioned defence spending. This is absolutely central to NATO’s future. It strengthens the alliance’s capabilities, it underpins our transatlantic bond (ie the European allies’ relationship with Canada and the US), it underlines our collective commitment, and it sends a powerful message to Russia. Post-Afghanistan, NATO must have the capabilities it needs for the next phase. And we need to ensure that allies share the burden equally, which is particularly important for solidarity. Despite the continuing impact of the financial crisis, we would like allies each to make the strongest possible commitments to increasing defence spending, with a target of 2% of GDP. Of that one fifth should be devoted to equipment and research. The UK government is committed to spending 2% of GDP on defence. This is about demonstrating long-term commitment, togetherness and strength.

Full-spectrum defence is another theme. We all face potential adversaries willing to operate in the space between peace and war. We need to show ourselves willing and able to respond and deter all types of threat. We need a better understanding of new threats.

A third theme is building defence capacity. NATO is uniquely positioned to support allies in this. Looking back at changes in the security environment over recent months and years, you get a good picture of how much NATO’s allies and partners themselves, including Macedonia, need to change to keep their armed forces as effective as possible.

Fourth is NATO readiness. The alliance’s enduring purpose is to safeguard members through military and political means. It has done this successfully for over 65 years. With Russian aggression, and conflict on NATO’s south-eastern borders, the summit is an opportunity to strengthen the alliance’s comprehensive deterrence. We want the alliance to agree a credible and dynamic Readiness Action Plan, as the Secretary-General proposes. That Plan should provide real reassurance to Eastern Allies as well as giving NATO long-term tools to meet new challenges.

Two more. The first is a Military Covenant or Charter. I mentioned this earlier. How we treat our armed forces and their families is a measure of the importance we place in them, and the values that guide us. This covenant would recognise the contribution of the armed forces and their families over 65 years. The UK believes it is the least we should do in exchange for our armed forces’ willingness to undergo hardship and to make sacrifices on our behalf.

And the last theme is Partnerships. NATO’s partnership activities, here in the Balkans, but also in Libya and Afghanistan, are a crucial element of what the alliance does. This is about, for example, developing interoperability between the alliance and its 24 partners. NATO defence ministers will meet with a small group of partners to discuss new opportunities. The hope is to expand this group, once it has been established.

This is an ambitious agenda. But it is one that is right for the strategic challenges that now face NATO. At the London summit in 1990, NATO leaders agreed that “we need to keep standing together, to extend the long peace we have enjoyed these past four decades”. That remains just as true today. By working together, we will be stronger together.

That is something that applies to Macedonia, just as it does to allies and to our other partners. The speculation here, especially earlier in the summer, about how the summit might approach enlargement is entirely understandable. The desire to join NATO, and to do that quickly, is very strong here. But while the message on membership remains the same, the declaration from Chicago 2012, the wider outcome from the summit will be of great importance and relevance to Macedonia. The Cardiff Summit, if it achieves its objectives (and I am confident it will), will strengthen NATO. And by strengthening NATO, it will bring important security benefits to Macedonia too.

The Wales summit should prove that NATO is a rock-solid alliance with strong partnerships around the world building global peace and stability, and creating a secure environment in which economies can grow and societies prosper.

Thank you.

Published 2 September 2014