Let me begin by congratulating Wolfgang Ischinger for the success he has had in organising this conference. I couldn't open a newspaper from any country these past days without seeing articles, op eds and commentaries, all about what is happening here in this hall over this weekend.
In past years, I've spoken on the Afghanistan panel. My decision to be on this panel this morning doesn't mean that the ISAF operation is any less a priority for me or for NATO.
But NATO's core business, for 60 years now, has been securing, stabilizing and promoting democracy in the Euro-Atlantic area. It will continue to be our core business, as NATO looks to its future.
And I share the view of many here that we are at an important moment of transition in how we "do" security in the 21st century.
The reasons are clear. There is a new US administration, with fresh ideas, and we will hear some of them from VP Biden in a moment. Russia wants its voice heard, and its interests taken into account, on a growing list of issues. And NATO will soon launch a fundamental discussion of the roles it should play in the 21st Century, in the form of an updated Strategic Concept.
Let me, quickly, offer a few thoughts on how I believe this transition in Euro-Atlantic security should take place – and how we might get there.
I believe that there are two partnerships that need to be fundamentally strengthened: the relationship between Russia and the West; and the relationship between the United States and Europe – by which I mean principally a stronger EU. And in both cases, NATO has an important role to play.
Let me start with Russia.
I think we all see the potential of a strong, trusting relationship between Russia and the West – on missile defence, on arms control, on Iran and the Middle East, on energy, on the Caucasus and Central Asia, on Afghanistan.
There is clearly plenty of opportunity for real, concrete progress.
in arms control (CFE, START, INF).
With not much a change in mindset, I think real transatlantic cooperation on missile defence including Russia is very do-able — which would, I think, make those who might threaten Europe with missiles think twice, militarily and politically.
We could also step up our cooperation on operations like Afghanistan – and also, to my mind, beyond as well. Piracy is one good example.
But – and here comes the but – this will not happen just because we would like it to. On all sides, there must be a willingness to compromise – to take concrete steps to change the status quo.
I have already mentioned arms control. I will say, very frankly, that I think Russia has a legitimate case to make in asking for a discussion of existing arms control treaties.
President Medvedev has also proposed a discussion of a new Euro-Atlantic security architecture. Many leaders have publicly said that they are willing to have that discussion, and I am one of them.
But I cannot see how we can have a serious discussion of such a new architecture, in which President Medvedev himself says "territorial integrity" is a primary element, when Russia is building bases inside Georgia, which doesn't want them.
That cannot be ignored, and it cannot be the foundation of a new European Security Architecture.
We also need to move beyond a 19th century "Great Game" idea of spheres of influence. I am concerned by any attempts to deny the right of European democracies to choose their relationship with NATO freely.
I am also concerned when the Kyrghyz President announces in Moscow that Manas air base will be closed to the US. Russia has supported the UN mandates for our operations in Afghanistan. It has offered land transit for supplies to the mission. This was, at the very least, incongruous with Russian support for the mission in other important ways.
My point is this. We have the opportunity to build a new, more trusting and more practical relationship with Russia – to move the yardsticks on arms control, on missile defence, on operational cooperation. But if it is to be sustainable, it must be a two-way street.
That same expression – "two way street" must also apply to the rebalancing of the relationship between the US and Europe, including through NATO.
Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy got the tone right, as far as I'm concerned, in their joint op-ed earlier this week. We must move to new transatlantic balance – where the US and Europe share leadership and burdens more fairly.
Let me restate that last phrase: "leadership and burdens". They go together. I am frankly concerned when I hear the US planning a major commitment for Afghanistan, but other Allies already ruling out doing more.
That is not good for the political balance of this mission. It also makes the calls for Europe's voice to be heard in Washington ring a little hollow.
Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy rightly pointed the finger at Europe first. At the need for unified decisions, concrete capabilities and – crucially – the willingness to use them.
My point is this: in the transatlantic relationship as well, our aspirations for a healthier, more sustainable partnership can only work if both parties do their share. The Obama administration has already done a lot of what Europeans have asked for, including announcing the closure of Guantanamo, and a serious focus on climate change. Europe should also listen: When the United States asks for a serious partner, it doesn't just want advice. It wants, and deserves, someone to share the heavy lifting.
What does all this mean within NATO? A very timely question, with the 60th anniversary Summit in Strasbourg and Kehl — let me, here in Germany, call it the "Kehl-Strasbourg" NATO Summit – around the corner. Where, I expect, we will launch the process to update our Strategic Concept, during which all these fundamental issues will be addressed.