NATO Secretary General George Robertson spoke about the changing role of the United States in NATO and how Americans can accept these changes in Funger Hall Tuesday.
His speech was entitled NATO: Why Should Americans Care?
Robertson said when the alliance was first formed, many people in the United States were reluctant to join. Many Americans viewed NATO as an entangling alliance, something which the first U.S. President George Washington had warned his country about. Robertson said the alliance was successful in being accepted by the United States because the member nations upheld their belief in democracy and had strong values.
During the Kosovo air strikes last year, Robertson said most of the military power and money for the mission came from the United States. He said this reflected an imbalance in the alliance. Robertson said efforts to fix this balance in power are underway.
Robertson said Americans should not view the European Security Defense Identity as any threat or competition to the alliance. Robertson added the ESDI had no intention of creating a massive European army. The ESDI was to serve as a European division of NATO to help share some of the large burden the United States has to carry in the alliance’s operations. He said the ESDI also will enable the United States to decrease its involvement in Europe.
Robertson addressed the concern that many Americans have about the European Union’s increasing involvement with NATO. He said many Americans fear the United States will provide the bulk of support in an alliance operation, but the European Union will take most of the credit. Robertson said he hopes the European Union will be strong enough to support its own operations without excessive assistance from the United States.
Another concern in the United States is the fear that the alliance will be divided if NATO members that are part of the European Union unite against NATO members that are not part of the European Union, Robertson said.
Robertson said in the alliance’s past, the general rule of the game was what the United States could do for Europe. He said now it is what the United States can do with Europe. Robertson said he is trying to promote unity among all the alliance’s member nations. He said he has the best interest of NATO and its member nations in mind.
As the secretary general of NATO it is my job, indeed it is my personal mission, to do what is right for NATO, Robertson said.
NATO’s involvement in Kosovo was an excellent accomplishment of the alliance, Robertson said. He said the alliance’s members held true to their values when they joined forces and completed a mission to stop ethnic cleansing in the Balkans last year. Robertson said he was rewarded by the thankfulness of the people whose lives were saved by the alliance’s intervention.
We stood up for what was right, we are proud of it, and the world is a safer place, Robertson said.
This article appeared in the April 6, 2000 issue of the Hatchet.