Albright speaks on NATO Strategic Concept
On Wednesday, December 16, the Brussels Office of the German Marshall Fund, in partnership with NATO's public diplomacy division, hosted former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright for a speech and discussion on the future of the transatlantic relationship and NATO. Albright's speech focused on the need to keep transatlantic connections strong and discussed reworking NATO to make it more relevant and decisive in a post-Cold War world. Ronald Asmus, GMF Executive Director of the Brussels office and Strategic Planning introduced the former secretary of state and moderated the question-and-answer period. In her speech, Albright remarked that perceptions of NATO have changed as "the sources of danger in the world have grown more diverse." The younger generation has no memory of the World Wars or the Cold War, and therefore lack confidence in and understanding of international institutions, she said. In her role as chair of the Advisory Group to the Secretary General tasked to devise a new Strategic Concept for NATO, Albright said they are considering suggestions for attracting and maintaining popular support in order to gain backing both inside and outside NATO. Outlining the process for devising a new Strategic Concept for NATO, Albright said, "We are looking for ways to separate the jobs that NATO must do from those that it can perform in partnership with others and to distinguish that set of tasks from those that are completely beyond NATO's realm of responsibility." Albright applauded President Obama's recent call for peace through responsibility and sacrifice. She said she is similarly encouraged by the increased support within the alliance to achieve peace in Afghanistan. It is "essential, because we must not allow Al Qaeda or the Taliban to do what four decades of Soviet propaganda could not -- and that is to undermine the foundation of freedom that NATO represents," Albright said.
The former U.S. Secretary of State explained that NATO must adjust to "meet new dangers and to cope with the constant churning of events," but "should do so with confidence that the democratic values we each embrace are the right ones." The question and answer period explored the future of NATO and the future work of the Advisory Group. When asked about NATO's reaction if Russia becomes aggressive, Albright said that NATO would invoke Article 5 if necessary; however she added that NATO is trying to have a different, more cooperative relationship with Russia. Albright said she believes that the world can no longer be divided into two poles and that we must work together to achieve peace. She said she believes that democracy must be promoted but cannot be forced on a population. When asked for a better explanation of the Advisory's "comprehensive approach," Albright said that the Advisory Group is working towards a better understanding of the concept, in which when NATO deploys it must approach situations not only with the military, but also by building civilian connections and increasing humanitarian aid. She regrets that the idea of "nation-building" was changed during the Bush era, but believes it is essential for success in areas such as Afghanistan. Additionally, Albright explained that the Advisory Group is at a listening stage, but hopes to work with the Secretary-General on defining military threats, capabilities, and how NATO functions. When asked if the rise of Asia would be the downfall of the U.S., she disagreed, saying that Americans have never seen themselves as an empire and that the United States is now more interested in cooperation and partnerships on an equal level because Asia and the United States are so intertwined. Albright said that she has recently felt that people don't want U.S. power to decline and that when the U.S. acts it's a "damned if I do, damned if I don't" situation. She concluded by saying that the United States needs to find the right balance in doing the right things and getting involved in the right partnerships.