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“Lisbon can write history” – Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in the WELT on the NATO Summit in Lisbon on 19-20 November 2010

18.11.2010 - Interview

The Cold War ended 20 years ago. For decades NATO and the Warsaw Pact were locked in confrontation. Today NATO has invited Russia to participate in a collaborative missile defence project. Russia’s President Medvedev is going to Lisbon as a partner, not an adversary. We have a historic opportunity to put Cold War mindsets finally behind us.

I fully realize we still have serious differences on issues such as Georgia. With the ice age triggered by the fighting in Georgia now over, however, the prospects for a new start look good. One reason is our common security interests: in Afghanistan, in combating terrorism, in tackling piracy or in protecting ourselves from the threats posed by ballistic missiles. What we hope to do in Lisbon is lay the basis for a strategic security partnership from which both sides stand to benefit.

Another no less important item on the Lisbon agenda will be NATO’s new Strategic Concept. For months on end the question of what the NATO of the future should look like has been publicly debated and extensively discussed among experts and NATO members. I believe we are now well placed to take the right strategic decisions.

NATO’s core pledge will remain the mutual defence obligation in the event of armed attack on any of its members. Yet it is also important for NATO to respond to new challenges that may arise. It must be able to act effectively against terrorist threats and develop joint responses to the threat of computer attacks. In this context it is vital to make optimal use of the cooperation and consultation mechanisms envisaged in Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty. One thing is clear however: in future, too, NATO will be bound by international law and the United Nations Charter in everything it undertakes.

The new Strategic Concept is an opportunity also to revisit the whole question of disarmament. In future NATO will remain a defence alliance; it was not founded for the purpose of disarmament. Nor is there any reason to question the need for deterrence, including nuclear deterrence, in a world in which there are still nuclear weapons.

Nevertheless, the security of all of us is best served if NATO as the world’s leading military alliance makes a contribution to disarmament, arms control and the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. That is why NATO, too, should commit itself to a world without nuclear weapons. The new Strategic Concept should reflect the fact that in future nuclear weapons will play a less significant role in NATO’s defence posture. In today’s world disarmament issues are just as important as climate protection. So the next step for NATO now is to spell out in concrete terms how it plans to contribute to disarmament and arms control.

In Lisbon we plan to take a strategic decision also as regards our engagement in Afghanistan. This will involve embarking on the process of handing over to the Afghans responsibility for their country’s security.

President Karzai’s aim is for the Afghans to be able to take full responsibility for security by 2014. This handover of responsibility is intended to start next year, district by district and province by province. Even though there will be no mention of specific areas in Lisbon, since that could play into the hands of the Taliban and undermine the progressive handover we seek, the Summit should definitely give the go-ahead for this process.

The handover of responsibility opens up the prospect of withdrawal, something we hope to embark on before the end of the current parliamentary term. Depending on how the security situation evolves, our aim is to achieve a first reduction in the size of our troop contingent serving there in 2012.

Strategic partnership with Russia, a bold Strategic Concept for the future, the start of the handover of responsibility in Afghanistan – for NATO some very crucial decisions lie ahead. After a period of intense preparation we can now look forward to in-depth discussion at the Summit itself. Lisbon can write history. This is an opportunity that must be seized.

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