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Three great threats to international security

Foreign Secretary comments on the 'three great threats to international security'

Speaking at the Chicago Council for Foreign Relations on 15 October, the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, discussed the 'three great threats to international security: global terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and state failure' and the international response to these threats.

Quoting a survey of US and European attitudes he dismissed the suggestion that the relationship between the United States and Europe is in 'irreversible decline' and argued 'that the fundamentals of our relationship are as sound as ever'.

He added that in fact 'both sides of the Atlantic strongly support a multilateral approach to international problems and the strengthening of multilateral institutions'.

He said:

"Today the security and economic well-being of Europe and America remains intertwined. We face the same threats. Our economies are vulnerable to the same economic shocks. Stockmarkets in Europe have fallen by just as much as Wall Street over the past two years. The case for the transatlantic Alliance remains as strong as ever, a case reinforced by the events of 11 September."

He added, 'a vigorous transatlantic Alliance - with NATO at its centre - should form the frontline of our efforts' and that Europe should take forward its 'commitment to strengthen military capabilities'.

He concluded by saying:

"Terrorists may seek to test our determination. Rogue states may challenge our resolve. But we and our friends will be resolute in defending the values on which the peace of the world is built."



Event: Chicago Council for Foreign Relations

Location: Chicago

Speech Date: 15/10/02

Speaker: Jack Straw

I am delighted to be in Chicago today for my first visit as Foreign Secretary.

This city has, I know, always offered a warm welcome to Europeans, not least those who came here to build a better life for themselves and their families. Like many other towns and cities across this great country, Chicago represents all that is best about the transatlantic relationship - above all a belief in the potential of all human beings irrespective of colour, nationality and faith.

This city is also a powerful symbol of the strength of our bilateral relationship. We have had a Consulate here for almost 150 years. Today, Chicago is the headquarters for some of the largest inward investors in Europe, providing jobs and prosperity for tens of thousands in Britain alone. This relationship goes both ways: British investment in Illinois generates some 55,000 jobs, making us the biggest single foreign employer in the state.

And I am honoured to be speaking here at the Chicago Council for Foreign Relations, one of the most prestigious international affairs organisations in the United States. I want to pay tribute to the work of two of the Council’s most outstanding servants, John Madigan and Marshall Bouton, for organising a great fall programme, including speeches by the EU Commissioner for External Affairs, Chris Patten, and President Musharraf of Pakistan.

It’s also a good week to be English in Chicago. Last weekend, Paula Radcliffe crowned a wonderful season with a world record in the city’s marathon. As ever, the race itself was impeccably organised. Chicago’s reputation for excellence owes a great deal to one of the world’s great city leaders. Mayor Daley is a well-known public figure far beyond these shores. I know he attaches great importance to learning from the experience of others through his Sister Cities programme. As Britain embarks on a major reform of its public services, I hope we will be able to draw lessons from Chicago’s experience.


The theme of my remarks today is the three great threats to international security: global terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and state failure; and our joint response to them.

These threats, which have emerged since the Cold War, are more unpredictable than the challenge we faced in the Soviet era. They come from rogue regimes and terrorist organisations which despise universal values and which cannot be contained by classic deterrence. We must face up to these threats with the same resolve and determination we showed in the Cold War.

In tackling these threats, we have a common interest in upholding and reforming the multilateral system, which we built, and the great international post-war institutions – the United Nations, NATO and the European Communities.

And at a time when many European commentators like to contrast Europe’s preference for multilateralism with perceived US unilateralism, it’s worth recalling America’s contribution to the development of this system of international law, and its continuing commitment to this.

To listen to some observers, the partnership between Europe and the United States is in irreversible decline as splits over steel tariffs, the Kyoto Protocol and the International Criminal Court expose a supposedly unbridgeable gulf in understanding.

However, a survey of US and European attitudes conducted by this Council with the German Marshall Fund this year provides a welcome reality check. It reveals that both sides of the Atlantic strongly support a multilateral approach to international problems and the strengthening of multilateral institutions; that both support NATO and its expansion. Europeans and Americans agree that we should both play a strong leadership role in the world.

These findings help to demonstrate that the fundamentals of our relationship are as sound as ever. They show that we are more than close Allies. Our partnership is rooted in respect for human rights, the rule of law, economic opportunity and democracy. Together, as the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, put it when he spoke in Chicago three years ago, our aim is to put these principles at the heart of a doctrine of international community.

These principles have been key tenets of American foreign policy for decades: self-determination, democratic government, collective security and international law. In the past, these ideas have attracted criticism from advocates of realpolitik on both sides of the Atlantic. Today they are accepted by most states as fundamental.

These principles have formed the basis of transatlantic relations for the past 60 years. Since the signature of the Atlantic Charter in 1941, the partnership between the United States and Europe has been the fulcrum of global order. It has delivered peace and security in Europe, reduced national rivalries and balance of power politics, and embedded the concept of military co-operation across borders. From Marshall Aid - which the great post-war British Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, described as the 'lifeline to sinking men' - to the US’s leading role in Allied operations in Kosovo, the American contribution to European stability and prosperity has been immense.

But it was in 1989 that our partnership had its ultimate vindication when a bankrupt, totalitarian ideology proved no match for the desire of tens of millions to join our community of values.

Yet with the fall of the Wall, there were some who suggested that the transatlantic relationship had reached a high point from which it could only decline. Europe would turn inwards to focus on the challenges of integration, they said, and NATO would become increasingly irrelevant to the United States as it embraced a singular global role.

Events over the past decade suggest otherwise. Allied intervention in Kuwait, the Balkans and Afghanistan took place for different reasons. But the results have been the same: the defeat of intolerance and dictatorship; a vindication for human rights and the rule of law. And in each case, as it happens, it was Muslim people who were liberated and freed from tyranny.

Far from signalling the retreat of the transatlantic Alliance, the last 12 years has seen us consolidate the post-Cold War settlement, tackle new threats in Europe and beyond, and demonstrate that security, prosperity and justice are not just features of our relationship – they are global public goods.

Today the security and economic well-being of Europe and America remains intertwined. We face the same threats. Our economies are vulnerable to the same economic shocks. Stockmarkets in Europe have fallen by just as much as Wall Street over the past two years. The case for the transatlantic Alliance remains as strong as ever, a case reinforced by the events of 11 September.


From its instrumental role in the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials and the drafting of the UN Charter to support for war crimes tribunals in The Hague (for Yugoslavia) and Arusha (for Rwanda), from the Korean War to Operation Desert Storm, America has applied multilateral solutions to international problems.

As a consequence, the past five decades have been one of the most stable and prosperous periods in history. The international architecture established at the end of the Second World War has served mankind well. But dictatorial regimes in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, international terrorist groups and states at risk of internal collapse have one thing in common: they are often not susceptible to diplomacy alone. Tackling these challenges may ultimately mean the use of force.

This reality has applied to Saddam Hussein for over a decade. Iraq is the prime example of a regime, which despises our values and threatens all the things we believe in – peace, freedom, the rule of law, tolerance and above all human life.

Saddam’s record of murderous suppression of political dissent and religious diversity places him alongside history’s worst dictators. The punishment for criticising Saddam is to have your tongue cut out. Every day, pilots from our countries risk their lives in the no-fly zones to protect the security of those who Saddam would otherwise terrorise.

It is an understatement to say that his regime has no respect for human rights. It holds human life in contempt.

For eleven long years the United Nations Security Council and all members of the transatlantic Alliance have attempted to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. But our demands have been consistently flouted: not of the United States, the UK, but the UN.

The immediate priority therefore must be a new UN resolution, which establishes a highly intrusive inspections regime with the widest possible backing. Saddam has exploited loopholes in the earlier resolutions not just because of defective wording, but because that wording has reflected divisions in the international community.

Under a new inspection regime, any time, any place should mean just that: there must be no hiding place in the so-called Presidential Palaces.

If any new resolution is to have real effect, it must be backed with the credible threat of force. The Iraqi regime should be left under no illusion of the consequences of non-compliance or the depth of our resolve.


There should be no doubt about our resolve to combat global terrorism too.

Today the world stands united in horror at the terrorist attack on defenceless young holiday-makers in Bali. Like the terrorist attacks on September 11th, this was an attack on the whole international community and the universal values of freedom, tolerance and respect for human life. Those guilty of this despicable act are enemies of all nations and all faiths. Indeed, they are enemies of humanity.

The slaughter of innocents in Bali was perpetrated by groups whose perverted ideology and actions place them beyond the boundaries of civilisation. There can be only one response from the international community: we must maintain the campaign against terrorism with relentless determination.


Tackling terrorism also requires action against breeding grounds. As we saw in Afghanistan, state failure all too often allows terrorist groups to establish bases for operations.

The problem of state failure is not going to disappear. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, last year only 1 of 24 conflicts worldwide was, as it were, a classic war, between functioning states. In contrast, over the past decade it is estimated that wars within and amongst failed states have killed about 8 million people, most of them civilians, and displaced another 4 million. There is an urgent case for concerted international action, to tackle these failing states and where possible rebuild them.

I know the concept of 'nation building' creates unease in some circles in the US, but no country has played such a prominent role in rebuilding states after conflict as the United States. And from Japan, Germany and Marshall Aid in the post-war years to the Balkans, the results have been spectacular, in which the US has been in the lead.

The rise of the Taliban in the mid 1990s underlines the dangers of turning a blind eye to state failure. We need to respond to the dangers by developing a more coherent approach, which draws on all of the assets at our disposal, from aid and trade incentives and humanitarian support to military intervention.

Many of the tools are already there. At Monterey in March and at Johannesburg last month, the world community built on the Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty among the world’s most disadvantaged people. Together with the WTO’s Doha Round, we have within our grasp a new era of sustainable economic growth and prosperity, a stable political future for the developing world and an unprecedented opportunity to eradicate the problem of state failure.


In confronting these challenges, so we must also seek to resolve the world's long-running disputes, particularly in the Middle East.

The continuing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is a desperate human tragedy. More than 2,000 people, mostly civilians, have died in two years.

We in the international community have both a vested interest and a moral obligation to do all we can to bring about a lasting settlement to this vital issue.

All violence must end, and substantive talks must begin soon. The route map is clear, the end-point now accepted: two states, Israel and Palestine, co-existing in security, peace and prosperity.


The challenges I have outlined are daunting. The problems of proliferation, global terrorism and state failure are not susceptible to easy solutions. As the US National Security Strategy paper outlines, a unilateral approach is least likely to work. Co-operation across borders, infusions of peacekeeping troops, aid and trade agreements and intelligence sharing are the hallmarks of multilateralism.

A vigorous transatlantic Alliance – with NATO at its centre – should form the frontline of our efforts. For over fifty years the security of the Euro-Atlantic area has been underwritten by NATO - the embodiment of the transatlantic partnership and the most successful military alliance in history. As a result, ours is the first generation in 100 years that does not expect a European war. Next month NATO will take another historic contribution towards the reunification of Europe. At the Prague Summit, NATO will welcome several new members, all formerly aligned against the Alliance in the Soviet bloc.

This success owes a great deal to military capabilities, diplomacy and policies backed by the potential use of force. But the provision of these capabilities has become dangerously unbalanced. In his recent essay, 'Power and Weakness', Robert Kagan has suggested that the Alliance’s very success in guaranteeing security has bred complacency amongst European Allies. He concludes that Europe’s security is based almost entirely on US power, and that America’s military superiority makes it the only country qualified to work in the Hobbesian world of chaos.

A central premise of Kagan's argument is the huge gulf between American and European military capabilities. Since the Cold War, the United States has had armed forces that no other country can match. Today, American military expenditures are greater than those of the next eight countries combined.

In response, many in Europe will assert that its contribution to international security goes unrecognised, that it takes more than military power to produce the outcomes we want on the issues that matter to our safety and prosperity.

Europe does tend to exercise its influence through 'civilian power' – the quiet promotion of democracy and development through trade, foreign aid and peacekeeping. The results have sometimes been impressive. Access to vast Western European markets has provided an irresistible impetus towards economic and political reform in central and Eastern Europe, where democratic, market-oriented government has become the norm.

Europe also delivers more than 70% of the world’s civilian development assistance. Current and prospective EU members contribute large numbers of troops to UN and NATO peacekeeping operations. In the past 10 years, Europe has suffered more casualties in international peacekeeping operations than most, including the United States.

Impressive though these achievements are however, civilian assistance is no substitute for effective armed forces. Nor does such civilian power compensate for the fact that the military capabilities European allies bring to NATO are an increasingly inadequate response to the threats we face.

A relationship where one side of the Alliance disproportionately shoulders the military burden is a recipe for resentment. The Balkan conflict at the beginning of the decade revealed European military incapacity and disarray; the Kosovo conflict at the decade’s end exposed a transatlantic gap in military technology. Throughout the 1990s – with the exception of Britain and France - most European defence budgets fell below 2% of GDP. Last year British and French defence spending was around 2.4% and 2.5% of our respective GDPs (compared to 3% in the United States), accounting for roughly 45% of the European total of defence spending, even though the combined GDP of our two countries represented only 35 % of total EU GDP.

Europe has to understand that the disparity between effective military contributions to the Alliance is something that it should not view with equanimity. It was to deal with these gaps that Tony Blair in October 1998 first proposed a European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) – built on a new relationship between the EU and NATO, as the twin foundation of European security and prosperity.

The EU will take on the UN-led International Police Task Force in Bosnia from next January. It may yet have a military role in Macedonia this year, if the circumstances are right. But ESDP is emphatically not NATO’s replacement. However effective Europe becomes as a regional or global actor, we cannot expect to make a real difference without regular, close and systematic co-operation with the US in NATO, higher and more focused defence spending and greater efficiency in Europe’s armed forces.

The Prague Summit next month is a vital opportunity for the European members of the Alliance to deliver on their commitment to strengthen military capabilities. Europe could and should not aim to match American spending. But it is essential for the future of the Alliance that European forces get the investment they need to allow them to work effectively with their American counterparts.


Conflict prevention and deterrence were founding principles of the transatlantic Alliance and NATO. But succeeding generations of American and European statesmen also recognised that the credibility of our foreign policy depended on military capability.

This is as true today as it was during the Berlin airlift or the Cuban missile crisis. The end of the Cold War did not mark our entry into a Kantian world of 'perpetual peace,' and Kuwait and the Balkans were reminders that age-old threats with the capacity to destabilise the world still exist. The terrorist attacks on September 11th last year in America and October 12th this year in Bali show that new threats have emerged to the stability, which our alliance has helped to establish.

Over the last year, our two nations and our allies around the world have dedicated themselves to the task of preserving our peace and security in the face of new threats. We do not underestimate the task.

Terrorists may seek to test our determination. Rogue states may challenge our resolve. But we and our friends will be resolute in defending the values on which the peace of the world is built.


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