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NATO Summit 'unity in the face of new threats'

PM: NATO Summit demonstrated 'unity in the face of new threats'

In a statement to Parliament on the recent NATO Summit in Prague, Prime Minister Tony Blair said that the event reflected the 'extraordinary changes' in the global security environment 'in which all nations now operate'.

Mr Blair pointed to NATO's enlargement itself has changed. Seven new members - Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia - will be joining over the next 18 months. The Prime Minister said:

"This enlargement will strengthen NATO and make the whole continent of Europe more secure."

Turning to NATO's relationships outside its formal membership, Mr Blair said that we now work with Russia as 'an equal partner', cooperating in 'a wide range of areas'.

The Prime Minister said:

"My great hope is that we are now beginning to include the new Russia as a real partner in meeting the new threats we face."

The Prime Minister said that the Summit demonstrated 'unity in the face of the new threats that confront us'. He said:

"Every nation spoke of the menace of international terrorism and WMD. Every European country knows it is under threat, whether known as strong supporters of US policy or not."

Mr Blair added that some of the most powerful expressions of sentiments on terrorism and WMD came 'not from the old but from the new' members of the NATO Alliance.

The Prime Minister said that the new members had 'a lot to tell us about the values we believe in', commenting that established countries could be 'complacent about them'.

Mr Blair said in conculsion:

"...the ultimate message from the NATO Summit was far more powerful than discussion of capabilities or formal structures. It was that if we care about these values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law, we should not flinch from the fight in defending them and I know this country, Britain, will defend them with courage and certainty."

FULL STATEMENT FROM PM FOLLOWS

PM: NATO Summit demonstrated 'unity in the face of new threats'

In a statement to Parliament on the recent NATO Summit in Prague, Prime Minister Tony Blair said that the event reflected the 'extraordinary changes' in the global security environment 'in which all nations now operate'.

Read the Prime Minister's statement on the NATO Summit of 21-22 Summit in full below:


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[Check against delivery]

With permission Mr Speaker, I shall make a statement on the NATO Summit in Prague on 20-22 November. With my RHFs the Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary I represented the UK at the North Atlantic Council, the special meeting of the North Atlantic Council with the seven new countries invited to become new members, and the Euro Atlantic Partnership Council. At the outset may I pay tribute to President Havel and our Czech hosts, and to the skilful chairmanship of the NATO Secretary General, George Robertson, who has been widely and rightly praised for his leadership in this role.
The Summit reflected the extraordinary changes in the global security environment in which all nations now operate.

NATO itself has changed. We decided on seven new members. I congratulate Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia on their invitations. They are well deserved. They reflect the progress in reform that all seven countries have made since the end of the Cold War. All are on course to be in the Alliance by the next Summit in 18 months time, and to be contributors to European security. This enlargement will strengthen NATO and make the whole continent of Europe more secure.

These invitations will not be the last. The UK will help those who want to join, and who meet the criteria, to succeed in the future.

Second, NATO continues to build new relationships outside its formal membership. Most importantly, the relationship with Russia has been transformed this last year. We now work with Russia as an equal partner, cooperating in a wide range of areas. A good example is the Balkans, where NATO and Russia are together making an immense contribution towards our goal of a peaceful and stable Balkans playing a full part in the European family.

One of NATO's greatest benefits has been the forum it has provided for its European and trans-Atlantic members to deal with security challenges together. My great hope is that we are now beginning to include the new Russia as a real partner in meeting the new threats we face. There was a useful meeting in Prague of the NATO-Russia Council at Foreign Minister level.

NATO is also pursuing its practical co-operation with Ukraine, and strengthening its wider partnerships with the Mediterranean, Central Asia and the Caucasus.

NATO is building a close and effective relationship with the EU on crisis management, for example in the Balkans. At Prague, we decided to maintain a NATO presence in Macedonia for a further limited period. Once the EU-NATO links are in place, I am keen to see an ESDP operation in Macedonia, to show that Europe can play its part in bringing security and stability to this part of our continent.

Third, NATO needs to develop new capabilities. The Cold War is over. There are new missions and new threats. The key is flexibility of response, adaptability of military forces, and modernisation of defence capabilities.

The Prague Summit agreed on three new instruments to help meet these challenges:

a new NATO Response Force will provide NATO with effective forces available at short notice.
all Allies have committed to improve their capabilities in specific ways to support and equip forces that are flexible and deployable;
and, we agreed on a revised, reduced and refocused command structure.
Above all, the Summit was a profound demonstration of unity in the face of the new threats that confront us. Every nation spoke of the menace of international terrorism and WMD. We all recognised there is no place to hide from them. The terrorists do not distinguish between the "soft" or "hard" nations on terrorism. Every European country knows it is under threat, whether known as strong supporters of US policy or not. Every nation talked of the cells of Al Qaida or related groups within them, ready to strike at innocent people.

This is not a war which we can avoid. There is no appeasing these fanatics. They won't go more lightly on us if we are less outspoken in our condemnation of them. Their enemy is anyone who isn't them and they feel as strongly, sometimes more so, against the moderate Moslem as they do against the Christian or Jew or Hindu.

The NATO Summit affirmed that simple truth. It was a remarkable statement of defiance.

And it linked very clearly and rightly terrorism and WMD. The threat from WMD in the hands of rogue unstable states is not part of some different danger. It too represents savage indifference to human life. It too crosses national boundaries without discrimination. It too can't be negotiated with or appeased, only defeated utterly.

The strength of the NATO Summit statement on Iraq was testimony to that belief. There was complete unanimity round the table that the choice for war or peace lies with Saddam, and that if he breached the will of the UN, the UN would have to act. There was strong support for multilateralism and for the decision of President Bush to go through the UN. But equally strong insistence that multilateralism and the UN be seen to work.

And some of the most powerful expressions of these sentiments on terrorism and WMD came not from the old but from the new members of the NATO Alliance.

President Havel was a prisoner of the old communist regime; he was witness to the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact; he has now presided over NATO's largest gathering. The President of Lithuania, who has seen his country raped and destroyed by war and totalitarian oppression, who lived for 50 years in Chicago as an exile from his homeland, is now back as its President. The President of Latvia, for years a Professor in Montreal, spoke in the most moving terms of her country's long dark years, struggle for freedom and pride in becoming part of NATO.

Each representative with a story to tell and all with the same theme: they know the value of the fight for freedom, for democracy, for the rule of law, the struggle to break free of totalitarian intolerance and fanaticism. And they know the meaning of terrorism and WMD in the hands of brutal and repressive states. They know that extremism has just taken a new form for the 21st century. And they were complete in their determination that these new threats had to be faced, conquered and confined to history just like the scourges of the 20th century.

They had a lot to tell us about the values we believe in. Sometimes we can be complacent about them. They weren't. They know their worth. And the ultimate message from the NATO Summit was far more powerful than discussion of capabilities or formal structures. It was that if we care about these values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law, we should not flinch from the fight in defending them and I know this country, Britain, will defend them with courage and certainty.

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