Speech by Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly Annual Session, The Hague, 24 November 2014.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is an honour to speak to you here in my home city at the 60th Annual Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. I hope that over the past few days we’ve shown how much we appreciate your coming to our country.
I would like to extend a special welcome to Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Jens, I know you as someone who works hard to build support and get results. You have the ability to strike a balance between consultation and action. So you’re the right man for the job and I look forward to working with you.
Being NATO Secretary-General is, of course, a magnificent job. Even so, the first person to hold the post, Lord Hastings Ismay, had to be talked into accepting it in 1952 by none other than Winston Churchill. As a military man, Ismay was concerned that there would be too much red tape and too little action. But Churchill won him over by saying – and I quote – ‘…that NATO provided the best, if not the only, hope of peace in our time’.
And that’s exactly what NATO has been since it began 65 years ago: our best hope for peace and security. That’s still true today, especially now that Europe is faced with an arc of instability that is much wider than we once thought. Many people are talking of a new reality, of a new north-south divide, even of a new cold war.
And while I don’t think it wise in today’s multipolar world to draw simple historical parallels, one thing is certain: things are happening fast on the eastern and southern edges of NATO’s European territory. And the changes in geopolitical relations will last for a long time to come.
Think back to last year. Who could have imagined Russia’s aggression in Ukraine? Or such violent Islamic fundamentalism right on NATO’s doorstep? Almost every day, we are confronted with the fact that we cannot take peace and security for granted. The way we live − in democracies governed by the rule of law − is at stake.
NATO has made a substantial contribution to peace, security and prosperity in Europe. For 65 years, it has been a key defender of the norms and values we cherish as Western allies. Outside its own territory, too. Because if we want to protect our freedoms and civil rights we have to go beyond our own borders.
We have to join forces globally, by helping to maintain the international legal order. That’s in our own interests too, of course. By exporting stability, we limit the chances of importing instability. And NATO has a role to play here – along with the UN, the OSCE, the EU and other international organisations. Because global threats demand a global response.
I’m glad that NATO has responded appropriately to Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine and the recent developments in North Africa and the Middle East. For the Netherlands, NATO’s added value is not in question. Quite the opposite. We’ve seen recently, once again, how transatlantic cooperation provides the security guarantees that Europe needs to make it a relatively stable continent. How would countries like Poland and the Baltic States have felt in recent months without that collective security umbrella? Defending NATO’s territory is still the mainstay of our alliance. So it’s good that we re-affirmed this principle in a joint declaration at the recent summit in Wales.
The Netherlands will of course continue its active contribution to NATO’s efforts. That applies not only to Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan and the immediate assurance measures we decided on earlier this year. It also applies to strategic decisions for the longer term, like investing in cyber security and ballistic missile defence, agreeing on the Readiness Action Plan, and setting up the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force.
Our priorities for the months ahead are clear. It’s also clear that these activities will cost a lot of money. More than is now available, in fact. So it’s good that we decided in Wales to boost our defence spending over the next ten years.
This is necessary, but it imposes a duty on us. A duty to show our taxpayers that their money is being spent smartly and effectively. Not only when it comes to national defence budgets, but NATO’s budget too. NATO is already working to make its financial affairs more transparent. And I sincerely hope that the 28 member countries can make further agreements on this in the future. After all, transparency and public support go hand in hand.
Ladies and gentlemen, as ‘our best hope for peace’, NATO deserves that support. So let’s continue to build on that together. Let’s continue to build on our broad transatlantic security agenda and make ourselves resilient to the threats of today, tomorrow and beyond.