Speech by the Rt.Hon. Lord Robertson, Secretary General of NATO

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here. I have often heard of Georgia's wonderful reputation, for its thermal springs, its excellent wines, and its legendary hospitality. I am very pleased to be able to confirm for myself that these treasures are indeed worthy of their reputation. And I am not at all surprised that Jason and the Argonauts found the Golden Fleece here in Georgia!

Georgia's international reputation is growing in another area as well: as a newly independent country that is making a serious and successful transition into a modern European state. The reforms that this country has undergone -- sometimes painfully, but always with determination -- are paying off. Georgia's economy is recovering. Investment is increasing. And your democratic credentials are admirable. Elections are run fairly, people come out to vote in significant numbers, and the press is free and lively.

Much of this success is due to the leadership of President Shevardnadze, who retains the respect and affection of the international community. I congratulate him, and all the Georgian people, on the progress you have made until now in building a more democratic, more prosperous and more stable country.

Georgia's success in building for the future is a key test for broader European security. Why? Because we realise, that our security is inseparably linked with that of other countries. We believe that security is only possible, if, within Europe and its surrounding area, there is stability and a commitment to solve problems together. In short: the more secure our neighbours are, the more secure we are.

That is why co-operation and dialogue between states and institutions have become central planks of European security. Co-operation is no longer just a peripheral activity; in the 21st Century, it is the foundation of a sound foreign policy. Security is something no single nation can provide completely on its own. Only co-operation - both regional and international - offers the possibility to create the kind of long-term security and stability any nation seeks. Only nations that remain outward-looking, that connect to the wider world, will prosper.

Georgia has clearly understood this lesson -- and your approach has been exemplary. Georgia has been a member of the OSCE since 1992. In 1999 it became a member of the Council of Europe. And it has signed a Partnership and Co-operation Agreement with the European Union.

NATO, too, believes fundamentally in the importance of cooperation when it comes to security. The peacekeeping operations in the Balkans stand as vivid testimony.

As you all know, in Bosnia and in Kosovo there are currently two major peacekeeping operations, involving almost 70,000 troops. The core of these troops is provided by NATO member states. But there are many more nations who participate. Indeed, troops from Europe, North America, Africa, Latin America and even Asia are operating under the same command -- including, of course, the Georgian infantry platoon. Slowly but surely this unique international coalition is pushing the Balkans towards a sustainable peace.

Indeed, nothing illustrates better the fundamentally changed nature of European security than this coalition. Countries which were once adversaries are now natural partners. For the first time in modern history, European countries can ensure peace and security with each other, rather than against each other. For the first time there is a genuine common interest in working together to find solutions to shared problems.

The fact that NATO and non-NATO countries are co-operating so closely and so frequently also reflects the fundamentally changed nature of NATO itself. It is no exaggeration to say that since the end of the East-West confrontation NATO has changed beyond recognition.

Instead of being focused on a single mission -- collective defence against an adversary -- NATO has turned into a motor of Euro-Atlantic security co-operation and a catalyst for political change. It has adopted a new approach to security based on the principle of co-operation with non-member countries and other institutions. And the benefits of what NATO does extend throughout the Euro-Atlantic area, including the Caucasus.

The Partnership for Peace programme, launched six years ago, is the main framework through which the Alliance promotes cooperation. In essence, it is a programme of bilateral military co-operation between the Alliance and individual non-NATO nations. Behind this initiative was the desire of Allies to share their experience and expertise with the countries to NATO's East.

After the break-up of the Soviet Union, many of these countries were establishing, some of them for the first time, national security policies and defence ministries. We did not want to impose our views on anyone. But we believed that these countries could usefully draw on the wide experience of NATO members. That way, we could help these countries during a critical phase in their transition. Because it was in our very own security interest to see this transition succeed. Again, the more secure our neighbours are, the more secure we are.

Now, more than 6 years after the start of PfP, the number of Partners has grown to 26, involving countries coming from all points of the compass and from a range of security traditions. It is thus no exaggeration to say that the Partnership between the 19 NATO-members and the 26 Partners provides the most intensive programme of military-to-military co-operation ever conceived.

This programme has provided added momentum to the reform processes of many Partner nations, particularly concerning practical questions of how to organise and control military forces in democratic societies. And it has led to a degree of technical and conceptual interoperability among our forces that is unprecedented. In short, PfP has marked the beginning of a new security culture throughout Eurasia - a culture based on practical security co-operation.

As PfP has evolved, so the opportunities for Partners to have a say in this programme has constantly increased.

In the early days of PfP, for example, NATO would essentially offer its Partners a menu of activities, which they could choose from. Today, Partners are much more self-confident and eager to shape the programme together with Allies. The Partners contribute to the establishment of the Partnership Work Programme. In other words, they have understood that it is they who decide how far and how deep co-operation should go, and that, therefore, it is they who bear a certain responsibility for the future of these ndeavours. That is why they have remained so interested - and so active.

Georgia joined PfP in 1994 and since then has become one of its most active members. Our common activities focus on Civil Emergency Planning, civil-military relations, Defence Policy and Strategy, and defence reform. And there is potential for an even more fruitful partnership.

On a political level, NATO's co-operation with Partners finds its expression in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC). EAPC provides a platform for Allies and Partners to discuss issues of common concern. It is also the political "roof" of Partnership for Peace.

The EAPC agenda covers a wide range of issues, such as regional security, energy security, and civil emergency planning. Georgia seized the opportunities offered by the EAPC, and has become one of the most active participants. Indeed, the first ever EAPC regional security co-operation event was held in Georgia.

Over the years, Georgia has hosted a significant number of EAPC activities. For example, an important seminar on Regional Security Cooperation in the Caucasus took place in Gudauri in October 1998 and an EAPC Seminar on defence budgeting was held here just a few months ago. The number of activities Georgia has initiated or offered to host in 2001 is equally impressive.

These conferences are very good examples of the EAPC potential to contribute to dialogue, and to help promote the conditions necessary for regional stability. Of course, NATO cannot and does not claim a lead role in facilitating the peace processes in this region. That responsibility rests first and foremost with the parties of the region, who must find a way to agree on a peaceful way forward.

And of course, the OSCE and the United Nations play a vital role, as does the GUUAM. Through PfP and EAPC, NATO stands ready to support these efforts. The Alliance firmly believes that this region deserves peace and stability -- and the economic investment and prosperity that go with it.

It is also a reality that there will be no comprehensive settlement of the disputes in the region without the participation of the region's major powers -- including, of course Russia. The Georgian relationship with Russia is, obviously, a vital one.

NATO considers it a positive step that the withdrawal of Russian military equipment from Georgia is underway and hopes that it will be completed, as was foreseen in the agreement reached at the Istanbul OSCE Summit. This is a sign that we can achieve progress; and that issues can be resolved through negotiation.

This same principle underpins NATO's relationship with Russia. Our disagreements during the Kosovo crisis made it obvious that the NATO-Russia relationship is still burdened by Cold War stereotypes. But we are getting beyond them, because we know that in the long run we will not be able to achieve increased security in Europe or the Caucasus without Russia, let alone against it.

Russia, in turn, knows that co-operation with NATO is essential if this large country is to successfully manage its challenging political and economic transition. Let us not forget: for several years now, NATO and Russian troops are working side-by-side on the ground in the Balkans. This shows that NATO and Russia can work together where it counts -- and that they simply cannot afford to ignore each other.

It is this logic of inclusion and co-operation that also characterises the other co-operative ties NATO has developed over the past decade: the distinct NATO-Ukraine relationship, for example, or the Dialogue with countries of the Southern Mediterranean. The specifics of our co-operation may differ in each case, but the rationale for our co-operation is always the same: the more secure our neighbours are, the more secure we are.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me conclude. What I have tried to convey to you in my short remarks today is a sense of the importance we attach to the logic of partnership. I wanted to convey to you how pleased we are to see co-operation develop here, in the Caucasus, just as it has developed successfully in Europe. The relationship of the Republic of Georgia with NATO is dynamic, evolving -- and rewarding, for both NATO and Georgia.

Of course, the countries of the Caucasus have their own specifics, and their own dynamics. NATO does not have the solution to all the problems here, nor elsewhere. But policies of co-operation will strengthen security for us all. We have a unique chance to turn Europe into a region of co-operation and stability, in which every country has its say, and none considers itself threatened. NATO is determined to work with Georgia, and all the countries of the region, to make this ambitious goal a reality.