Thursday, 5 March 2009

The Declaration on Alliance Security

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer presented ministers with his draft of the Declaration on Atlantic Security. He told Ministers that:

Finally, as instructed by our Heads of State and Government a year ago in Bucharest, next month’s Summit will issue a Declaration on Alliance Security. This Declaration should, in my view, underline NATO’s determination to perform the full range of its missions, from its core task of collective defence to projecting stability abroad. It should convey to our publics, in plain and powerful words, NATO’s “raison d’ĂȘtre” at 60. And it should also give us the necessary vision and political guidance to start a process which will lead to updating our 1999 Strategic Concept, in order to set out in detail the Alliance’s role in the new security environment of the 21st century.

Having failed to obtain agreement last year to begin a review of NATO’s Strategic Concept, De Hoop Scheffer persuaded the Allies to agree a new statement of principles. He had hoped that NATO would issue a new Atlantic Charter. The original was written at the height of World War II, as a statement of western values in the fight against Hitler. It led directly to the formation of the United Nations, and then of NATO as the fight against fascism became the fight against communism. However, NATO leaders downplayed the idea, and it became a Declaration.

What is important, though, is the content. The document as drafted by the Secretary General includes review of NATO activity over the past 60 years and a future vision for NATO strategy as well as foreseen security duties and obligations of member states and NATO missions beyond NATO territory.

It seems that the principle importance of the Declaration will be the breadth of topics that it covers, and the fact that it will serve as a public terms of reference for the Strategic Concept debate that follows. As such, while hardly likely to be a document of historic importance like the original charter, it will be influential in shaping NATO for coming decades. In so far as the Declaration breaks new ground for NATO, De Hoop Scheffer will leave his mark as Secretary General on the Alliance when he retires later this year.

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