Warsaw Summit Experts' Forum

Nato in defence of peace: 2016 and beyond

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Keynote Address – Madeleine K. Albright Warsaw Summit Experts’ Forum
Friday, July 8, 2016, Warsaw, Poland


Thank you, Dr. Debski, for that kind introduction and good morning to you all. I am honored to be here among so many distinguished officials, experts, and Alliance leaders past, present, and future. I want to thank the Polish Institute of International Affairs and all of the other partners for inviting me to speak here today, and I also want to thank Fred Kempe and the Atlantic Council for asking me to come to Warsaw to co-chair their future leaders summit.

When I was Secretary of State, I participated in many NATO Summits where I was always armed with the official policy positions of my government. Today, I am here in an unofficial capacity – but my enthusiasm could not be greater – for NATO has always been part of my life. Its birth was hastened by the Communist takeover, in 1948, of my native Czechoslovakia. From then until the fall of the Berlin Wall, NATO had the dual role of shielding freedom in the West while preserving hope in Europe’s east; as a daughter of Prague living in America, I had one foot on each side of that divide. That would continue to be the case during my time in government.

More than twenty years ago, I traveled here with General Shalikashvili, the Polish-born Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to offer Poland a place in NATO’s new partnership for peace.

And more than fifteen years ago, I had the privilege of welcoming the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland as full members of this alliance.These experiences make me especially pleased to be able to participate in this first NATO Summit on Polish soil.And being here in Warsaw, I cannot help but recall my dear friend Bronislaw Geremek, a lifelong champion of freedom whom I saw in the early 1980s, when I visited Poland for the purpose of writing a book on the role of the media in the Solidarity movement.
He was among the most impressive of the dissident leaders I met during that whirlwind trip – a man of great integrity who was a leading voice in Solidarity and became an enemy of the martial law government. No one would have predicted, in 1981, that Geremek would later serve as the foreign minister of a free Poland or that I would ever become America’s Secretary of State. Yet, in the spring of 1999, when Poland joined NATO, we were able to celebrate that historic moment together on stage, surrounded by music and flags, smiling and giddy as children.The following year, we were re-united here in Warsaw when Geremek played host to the first ever conference of the Community of Democracies. 

One reason Geremek took pride in hosting the event is that he wanted the name of his beloved capital city to be associated with something newer and more uplifting than the Cold War vintage Warsaw Pact. The Warsaw Declaration, a manifesto spelling out the elements of democracy, fulfilled that purpose. And sixteen years later, this NATO Summit can do the same. Later today and tomorrow, the leaders of the world’s most successful alliance will gather at a crucial moment in its history. Their goal should be a Summit whose message is clear to audiences both within and outside the alliance; a meeting that will serve equally as an internal guide for member states as well as a signal to our friends and would-be adversaries around the world. But our leaders begin this Summit facing stiff headwinds. There’s no question about it. To our east, Russia has violated international law in Ukraine and provoked members of our alliance through its rhetoric and actions – including a military transformation aimed squarely at NATO.

To the South and East of Europe’s frontier lies a combustible mix of failed and failing states, with terrorist groups, brutal dictators, and sectarian civil wars unleashing a tidal wave of human suffering that has washed onto this continent. Within Europe, the handling of the refugee crisis has exposed deep divisions among member states and eroded confidence in European institutions. Brexit was in part a manifestation of this crisis – although since I am no longer a
diplomat, I can bluntly say that it was also the result of miscalculation and political incompetence. Of course, we in America have our own political problems. You may have heard about them.We have a candidate for our highest office who has called NATO obsolete and said that he would be fine if it broke up.

I want to be clear with this audience that such sentiments represent only a fringe view i the United States – a recent poll by Pew found that more than three-quarters of Americans view U.S. membership in NATO as a good thing. Nevertheless, we should all be concerned when one of two major candidates for the
United States presidency questions the value of this alliance – and we should be equally concerned that his rhetoric is being echoed by populist leaders here in Europe. Because they reflect something deeper in both American and European politics. Today’s problems are so complicated that people are tempted to search for simple solutions. Globalization is moving ahead with such speed that people are tempted to look for an emergency brake.And with the world outside our borders seeming so chaotic, people are tempted to build walls. 

We must resist all of these temptations, but we also must admit that we have been operating on many mistaken assumptions. I put myself in this category as well.
Seven years ago, as NATO marked its sixtieth anniversary, I was honored to chair the NATO Group of Experts, which provided analysis and recommendations to the Secretary General as he prepared the Alliance’s new Strategic Concept. Over the course of a year, we met with scores of distinguished scholars, former officials, and military leaders – including many in this room – for discussions on the future of the Alliance.

The intent was to produce an Alliance roadmap for the decade to come. But while the basic framework and conclusions of our report remain relevant today, what
is most striking is just how differently this decade has unfolded than anticipated. For example, while we acknowledged the possibility that Russia may turn adversarial, our focus was on how to work with Moscow to build a cooperative Euro-Atlantic security order. Similarly, while we reaffirmed the centrality of NATO’s core commitment to collective defense, our focus was on how to bolster security beyond our borders through out of area operations and new partnerships. We took Europe’s security as a given. And while we spoke of the importance of telling NATO’s story, much of our focus was on explaining NATO’s importance to the broader international community – rather than to our own citizens.

There is much that was unpredictable and unforeseen in the events of the past few years. To borrow a phrase from my friend David Miliband, it has been a decade of disorder. The question is whether we will be prisoners of disorder, or whether we will have the courage and vision to shape a new order out of the chaos that surrounds us. In this environment, there is no certain road map to success for the survival of our values and our institutions.

Ultimately, it is a matter of leadership and imagination – of judgment and of choice. And in making that choice, we must remember that there is not a page of this Alliance’s history, of which we are proud, that was authored by a chronic complainer or prophet of despair. We are doers. We are builders. And we must summon that spirit today, because recent events make clear that NATO is and can be every bit as central to the challenges of this century as it was to the last – but only if we embrace it, adapt it, and reinvigorate it for our time. In doing so, we should remind ourselves that NATO has never defined its purpose in
terms of what we are against.
From the very beginning, we have described our common agenda in positive terms – tosafeguard freedom, promote stability, uphold the principles of democracy, and to extend the rule of law. These objectives are not tied to any calendar, nor are they dependent on any particular

They will survive as long as we have the courage to defend them, but defend them we must, for our interests and ideals will be opposed. We see this happening with Russia – a great country which has once again been betrayed by its leader. Through his actions in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has reminded us that leaders are most dangerous when they make up their own facts.His worldview is colored by toxic fictions, his overriding goal is to extend his influence and to divide this Alliance. Fortunately, we have thus far denied him that objective. Since Russia’s forces entered Ukraine in 2014, the United States and NATO have undertaken a series of strong reassurance measures to shore up the Alliance’s Eastern flank – including augmenting forces, improving their readiness, and staging a series of important exercises.

 Now, the task is to transition from reassurance to deterrence – so that Russia sees that its actions have long-term consequences, and understands that neither our resolve nor our capabilities should ever be questioned. The deployment of four rotational battalions on a persistent basis to the Baltic States and Poland, led by Canada, Germany, the United States and the UK, will be a major milestone in this deterrent effort when decided upon at this Summit. Likewise, the Obama administration sent a strong signal of U.S. leadership when it put forward a plan to invest more than $3 billion in upgraded European defense capabilities.
My hope and expectation is that these investments will be matched by European nations – and indeed, 2015 saw the first increase in overall defense spending by non-U.S. member states in years.

All this sends a message of unity to our publics and to Russia alike. Yet unfortunately, there are those on both sides of the Atlantic who worry that deterrence measures in the East amount to saber-rattling, and whose main concern is that we might somehow provoke Putin by investing more in this Alliance.
 My response is that Putin needs no provoking – he is the provocateur. So rather than falling into the propaganda trap that our decisions here in Warsaw are
unwise, we need to remember that Putin will be far less likely to engage in provocation if he sees a NATO that is unified, strong, and determined to push back against any aggressive move on his part – whether in the air, on land, on sea, or in the new operational domain of cyberspace.

To that end, I believe the Alliance should look not only to the east but also to the Southeast, through maritime cooperation in the Black Sea, to bolster its forces.
 Similarly, we should be looking more to the Arctic – a region where we may be able to cooperate with Russia, but where we also must guard against conflict.
 We will need to keep taking such measures for as long as Russia maintains its aggressive posture, but even during this troubled period we should remain open to communication through 

mechanisms such as the NATO-Russia Council – recognizing that such communication is a twoway street, requiring both an effort to explain and a willingness to listen. When I was the U.S. Secretary of State, I spent many hours discussing NATO’s activities and plans with my counterparts from Russia, including Yevgeny Primakov. Our talks were typically cordial but blunt. No matter how often I reassured my Russian friends about the alliance’s intentions, their suspicions remained. Although we were able to achieve progress with the NATO-Russia Founding Act, it was still clear to me that for many in Russia, NATO’s very existence was anti-them.mClearly, this mindset has not changed. This makes dialogue more difficult, but not impossible – and I commend Secretary Kerry for his determination to make this dialogue a reality.

During my time in government, our policy was that, on matters of European security, Russia was entitled to a voice but not a veto. Even after all that has happened, both halves of that equation remain valid. But in the interests of clarity, certain facts bear repeating at this Summit: First, NATO’s purposes remain defensive in nature. The resources of the alliance are not directed at any country, and we do not consider any nation to be our enemy. Second, the alliance neither asserts, nor recognizes, a sphere of influence. On the contrary, NATO is a defender of the rights of nations to exercise sovereignty legitimately and independently within their borders. Third, NATO remains open to a cooperative relationship with Russia if its behavior changes. But to encourage that change, Russia must pay a price through sanctions for its illegal actions in Ukraine.

Fourth, Central and Eastern European nations should know that we have a golden rule – there will be no important diplomatic discussions about them without them. Finally, we should re-iterate that, whether or not Moscow approves, NATO’s doors will remain open to qualified candidates.No country outside the alliance should be permitted to exert influence over these internal judgments. With that in mind, I welcome the pending accession of Montenegro – which demonstrates
clearly that the doors to our Alliance are still open – and I believe that we must continue to strengthen our cooperation with Georgia, while assisting Ukraine in its defense and security sector reform.

Coming out of this Summit, we can deliver a strong message to Russia and position the Alliance to deter its aggression on the continent for the long-term. We can be clear that our concerns are with the Kremlin’s behavior, not the Russian people. But these efforts in the East will not be enough to guarantee our collective security. We
must also respond to the challenges to NATO’s south. It is no secret that ISIS and its followers have made themselves the enemy of all who value human dignity and life.
Their attacks have triggered a worldwide confrontation, marked by incidents of outrage from Brussels and Paris to Istanbul, Medina and Dhaka. But if there is a center to this struggle, it is in the Middle East, where civil wars have produced a humanitarian calamity and given terrorists free reign to operate. We cannot pretend that these problems are distant. Our Alliance has a border with Syria, and Turkey is hosting 2.7 million refugees fromthat war-torn land. 

Last summer, nearly one million refugees, mostly Syrians, arrived on Europe’s shores – enriching a shadowy network of criminal smugglers, overwhelming European institutions, and helping trigger a xenophobic political backlash on the continent. Meanwhile, there is no doubt that the self-proclaimed caliphate poses a direct threat to
our alliance. Successfully defeating ISIS, or Daesh, will require people of the region to take the lead in rejecting their hateful ideology and ejecting them from their lands.
But we cannot write this off as someone else’s fight.

The stability of the Middle East directly impacts the security of our alliance – meaning that NATO must be involved in helping the region.Some in the Alliance have tried to put the brakes on Secretary General Stoltenberg’s outreach to the region, arguing that NATO is a four-letter word in the Arab world. That is not what I hear during my travels in the region, where our closest Arab partners want a stronger relationship with our nations and our Alliance.

So I welcome the decision that will be made at this Summit to undertake training and capacity building inside Iraq, expanding the existing effort to train Iraqi officers in Jordan. Similarly, the deployment of NATO AWACS surveillance aircraft in the anti-ISIS campaign is an important move to upgrade the coalition’s capabilities. And NATO’s maritime mission in the Mediterranean and Aegean should be expanded to help the European Union in responding to the refugee and migrant crisis. But the challenges facing the Middle East and North Africa are long-term in nature, and our commitments must be the same.

One way to ensure this happens is by deepening NATO’s partnerships with Arab countries. We should also do the same with Israel. In addition to the efforts underway in Iraq, NATO must support Libya’s new government in its attempts to restore governance and check the spread of ISIS – working hand-in-hand with the European Union and Arab partners. We should also build a deeper partnership with Tunisia, a fragile democracy that needs our assistance, and pursue closer cooperation with Morocco, Jordan, and members of the Gulf Cooperation Council. 

But even as we build these new partnerships, we also must commit to finishing the job in Afghanistan – a country that has historically been the epicenter for global extremism. Afghanistan remains NATO’s largest operation, and that mission must continue beyond this year in order to ensure that country never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorism.

We now have strong partners in President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah, and they deserve our continued engagement – as President Obama’s announcement this week attests. In Afghanistan as well as Libya and Iraq, we have been reminded that protecting our interests requires that we act outside our borders. That was a key insight of our work on NATO’s Strategic Concept – one that remains deeply relevant today.
Yet some suggest that these external missions have opened a fault line within the alliance, placing on one side those who believe NATO should be focused on a resurgent Russia, and others who view the fragile southern frontier as the chief source of concern. We do not have the luxury of choosing amongst these two priorities. We must deal with both challenges, and we must avoid any split within our alliance over which deserves more attention.

Of course, we can continue to search for a reasonable balance between NATO’s need to act outside our borders and the desire of some to stay close to home.
 After all, there are limits to what NATO can do and also to what we should attempt; we are a regionally-based security alliance and cannot be all things to all people.
At the same time, we must not settle for the role of turtle, hiding in our shell while external dangers flourish. That means dealing proactively with threats – including those from outside, and those from within. I acknowledged earlier that the Alliance faces stiff political headwinds in the United States and Europe. On both sides of the Atlantic, there are myopic voices who question its value and its purpose. Whether they are populists, isolationists, or political opportunists, these voices must be
vigorously opposed and rebutted.

For as the UK referendum reminds us, it is not enough to sit back and assume that people will understand the benefits of global engagement, or that logic and reason will prevail. NATO leaders have no choice – they must do a better job of building domestic support for the alliance and for the transatlantic security project writ large. For NATO must operate in the future with all the energy and focus it has shown in the past. Each member of the alliance must meet its obligations fully and without fail – including
the obligation to uphold democratic values.And all of us must constantly question our assumptions, dealing with the world as it is but striving always to reshape it into the world we would like it to be. 

Looking back, we can see that many of the threats we faced in the past have vanished or shifted. Looking ahead, we can expect that many of the problems we worry about today will also wax or wane.Global and regional dangers must naturally command NATO’s attention, but these impermanent perils must never define our alliance.
In 1949, we came together not because we were afraid, but because of our faith in the values of democracy, free expression, and respect for the dignity of every human being.

In 1999, we expanded not because we were afraid, but because we wanted to keep the door open for those who have fought for freedom. And because, as my friend Bronislaw Geremek always reminded us, the job of defending freedom is never done. We have learned since that our organization must constantly adapt to the demands of
political and technological change. But we have also learned what must not change. NATO’s next chapter must begin and end with NATO’s founding ideals. And just as surely, NATO’s future will depend on its unity. For if we do not stand together in peace, we very well might sleepwalk into another war. Years ago, Thucydides wrote that the Peloponnesians and their allies were powerful in battle but handicapped by political divisions. Each pressed for its own agenda, each thinking that others would act in time to preserve the common cause. But because each operated under the same illusion, the alliance soon forgot its purpose
and was ruined.

This must not happen to NATO. The world remains too dangerous. The role of our Alliance is too vital. And our shared vision of the world remains too important for us to lose our way now. This audience represents NATO’s past, present, and future. I would like to close by directly addressing those on the youthful end of the spectrum, the ones who will inherit and shape this Alliance for decades to come. Remember that a decade or two from now, you could be known as the generation that
allowed democratic momentum to shift into reverse; or as the leaders whose joint efforts helped millions more to realize democracy's promise. You could be known as the generation that allowed technology to drive a deeper wedge within and between nations; or as the visionaries who harnessed technology to unite people and
expand freedom. 

You could be known as the generation that allowed differences over tactics and technicalities to paralyze it in the face of freedom's foes; or as leaders who forged a new NATO which became a bulwark of support for liberty around the equator and from pole to pole. As I look around this hall, I am convinced that we will make the right choices – so let us begin again the task of charting NATO’s future with confident hearts, bearing in mind our responsibility to those who preceded us, to all who are among us, and to future generations.

Thank you very much.

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