Regional Cooperation in the Framework of PfP: Realities and Expectations

Dear Friends,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honor and privilege for me to address you on the occasion of the International Conference on Greater Middle East and Wider Black Sea Area: Security Connections and Cooperative Perspectives organized by NATO Studies Center.

Introduction

The West's growing interest in the South Caucasus and NATO's increasing concern with challenges on its periphery raise an important question for the Atlantic Alliance as it ponders its future role, commitments, and security responsibilities: Given the nature of the West's security interests in the South Caucasus and Central Asia regions and the potential threats to those interest, what role should NATO play in a broader Western security strategy for the area? After carefully weighing the benefits of deepening the Alliance's involvement in the region against the risks and costs, we come to the conclusion that NATO should see the region, in general, more as a potential quagmire than as a strategic vacuum waiting to be filled.

Regional Cooperation

NATO previous Secretary General Javier Solan's February 1997 statement that "Europe will not be completely secure if the countries of the Caucasus remain outside European security" comes to prove the growing importance of the South Caucasus to European security. Interest in the South Caucasus is also illustrated by the visits of the Secretary General Lord Robertson to Georgia in September 2000 and Armenia and Azerbaijan in January 2001. Outlining the general approach guiding NATO engagement, Lord Robertson emphasized that European security is "inseparably linked to that of other countries". In Tbilisi he told a conference on Regional Cooperation and Partnership with NATO that "the more secure our neighbors are the more secure we are.European security first of all depends on how well our neighbors are protected".

Strategically located on the south-eastern NATO flank, the South Caucasus borders Iran, Russia, and Turkey. Some observers believe that among post-Soviet regions the South Caucasus is second only to the Baltic states in strategic importance to the Alliance because its territory is contiguous with member nation Turkey and is a natural extension of Europe. It also forms a strategic corridor linking Southern Europe with Central Asia that could be used as a conduit for Caspian energy resources, which will likely play a significant role in European energy security and the global energy market if regional instability is overcome.

NATO focuses on the South Caucasus as it relates to European interests. Objectives include fostering regional security and stability through peacetime military engagement; ensuring access to Caspian basin energy resources; combating nontraditional threats such as international terrorism, and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Anti-terrorism, anti-rogue-state strategies have created a new set of Euro-Atlantic interests in the South Caucasus, gateway to actual and potential hotbeds of crisis in the Greater Middle East. Key to those strategies in all of their phases - from contingency planning to conduct of operations to post conflict stabilization - is access to the South Caucasus on a permanently assure basis. This requirement in turn necessitates durable coalition-building in the region. By the same token it presents the region's countries with a historic opportunity to seek inclusion in the Euro-Atlantic security system.

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 cooperation - 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.

NATO's November 2002 Prague summit made twin decisions on enlargement to the western Black Sea and on retooling for expeditionary operations further a field. At present, NATO allies in various combinations operate in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kyrgyzstan. Meanwhile, the US has begun repositioning some of its own forces from Western Europe toward the southeast, closer to the possible operational theaters. Thus, the South Caucasus has become NATO's direct neighbor as well as connecting link to the Greater Middle East for allied forces.

In sum, anchoring the South Caucasus to the Euro-Atlantic system must begin by projecting security in this region.

10 years of Partnership for Peace

Ten years ago NATO launched the Partnership for Peace, opening a new chapter in its relations with partner countries in Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. On 10 January 1994, at a meeting in Brussels, NATO Heads of State and Government invited the Alliance's partner countries at that time "to forge a real partnership - a Partnership for Peace."

The basic aim is to stimulate and support domestic defense reform in partner countries and the creation of modern, effective and democratically responsible armed forces and other defense institutions. Furthermore, to help countries manage the social and material consequences of such reform.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, opening his first meeting of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, on 14 January, 2004 and referring to the occasion of the anniversary said: "Therefore, as we greet this ten-year mark, we can look back at a record of success. The Euro-Atlantic Partnership has been a catalyst of domestic transformation and of international security co-operation on a historically unprecedented scale."

The program has proven to be a vital instrument for bringing partner countries closer to the Alliance. Now, ten years after the start of PfP, the number of Partners has grown, 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 NATO-members and Partners provides the most intensive program of military-to-military cooperation ever conceived.

This program has provided added momentum to the reform processes of many Partner nations, particularly concerning practical questions of how to organize and control military forces in democratic societies. And it has led to a degree of technical and conceptual interoperability among NATO forces that is unprecedented. In short, PfP has marked the beginning of a new security culture throughout Eurasia - a culture based on practical security cooperation. As PfP has evolved, so the opportunities for in this program have 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 program together with Allies.

On a political level, NATO's cooperation 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. Armenia seized the opportunities offered by the EAPC, and has become on of the participants.

We believe that EAPC can play an increasingly important role in confidence building in the Southern-Caucasus, promoting constructive dialogue and enhancing regional cooperation. That is consistent with the objectives of our participation in EAPC.

Consequently, the size and scope of PfP activities in the South Caucasus have increased significantly. Armenia joined the program in January 1994. Subsequent to joining the program, Armenia has signed a range of agreements and participated and broadened the scope of its activities with NATO. Bellow I'd like to bring the momentous events to your attention:

  • In October 2002, Armenia joined the Planning and Review Process (PARP) program with 21 countries-participants. Armenia participates in PARP with a peacekeeping battalion.

  • Armenia has taken a decision to participate in peacekeeping and reconstruction in Iraq by allocating forces to the military contingent headed by Poland and operating with NATO assistance.

  • In 2003, Armenia made a decision to participate in NATO's Kosovo Force (KFOR) peacekeeping operation. Since February 2004, a platoon of thirty peacekeepers from Armenia's Armed Forces is operating as a part of a Greek battalion of the US led multi-national brigade in Kosovo.

  • In 2003, Armenia signed the PfP Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). Each year, Armenia participates in several dozen events within the PfP framework, including military exercises, training programs and seminars.

  • In June 2003, Armenia hosted the NATO Cooperative Best Effort 2003 Military Exercises, in which 400 soldiers from 19 states participated. These exercises were the third field exercises held in the Caucasus, and the first organized in Armenia. The representatives of 8 NATO member-states (the UK, Hungary, Greece, Italy, Canada, Poland, the US and Turkey) and 11 partner-states (Armenia, Austria, Bulgaria, Georgia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Russia, Romania, Slovakia and Uzbekistan).

  • Throughout 2001-2003, the NATO Secretary General visited Armenia twice. The President of Armenia also paid a visit to NATO headquarters two times. NATO-Armenia political consultations have been held annually since 2001 between NATO's Assistant Secretary General and Armenia's Deputy Foreign Minister.

  • In 2003, NATO-Armenia discussions began regarding Armenia's joining the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) program. Georgia, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan have also announced their interest in joining IPAP.

  • In 2004, the President of Armenia has approved the appointment of an Ambassador specifically to NATO, as well as a Military Representative to NATO.

    And still the list of activities is growing from year to year.

    As regards Armenia-Russia cooperation: The improvement of NATO-Russia relations can serve to further strengthen Euro-Atlantic security and help prevent the creation of new dividing lines. For us, it is also important in the light of our advanced military cooperation with Russia and the policy of complimentarity that we have been consistently implementing.

    Realities

    Armenia treats Euro-Atlantic partnership as an indivisible part of common European security architecture. Participation in the Partnership allows Armenia to better implement a major component of our foreign policy -- integration into European structures. We believe that the Partnership should continue to be guided by its main principles of inclusiveness and self-differentiation. We believe also that individualized relations with Partners should be harmonized at levels of sub-regional cooperation. This will contribute to preserving peace and stability in regions with unsettled conflicts.

    The South Caucasus, as the boundary of the European continent, should be considered an indivisible part of European security. In this respect US Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, Elizabeth Jones, said this addressing the House International Relations Committee on Europe in March 3 - "the Caucasus and Central Asia are situated on the front-line in the War on Terrorism where PfP's culture of cooperation and inter-operability can make a greater contribution to our common efforts."

    Thus, partnership and cooperation have already accomplished a great deal, bringing direct benefits to citizens of NATO Member and Partner states.

    Yet, the very recent appalling events, first - Azerbaijan avoided participating in Cooperative Best Effort 2003 Military Exercises held in Armenia. Second - Azerbaijani authorities, without any comments, did not let Armenian officers to take part in the planning conference of the Cooperative Best Effort 2004 exercises to take place on the territory of Azerbaijan in autumn 2004 within the framework of NATO "Partnership for Peace" program. Attempting to clarify the situation I'd make a small comment on this issue assuring that not a single NATO partner-state can block the participation of the other partner-state in the exercises held within the framework of PfP program. Third - the brutal murder of an Armenian officer in Budapest by an Azerbaijani serviceman, bringing a horror and disgust of the whole Armenian nation towards this inhuman action. This shocking incident took place under NATO PfP program called to improve mutual understanding between the Servicemen of different countries.

    So the Alliance should draw corresponding conclusions.

    We do recognize and accept that the above stated acts and the tragic event are contrary to the spirit, character and logic of NATO mission and cast doubt on the realization of the main tasks of the Partnership aimed at the extension of the dialogue and the relations between the countries of the North-Atlantic region, particularly the South Caucasus. We do believe that Armenia should continue actively cooperating within the framework of international structures, especially, NATO and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council considered to be one of the most important factors of ensuring security of both Armenia and the whole South Caucasus region. Despite Azerbaijan's unacceptable behavior, Armenia, abiding by the principle of building a constructive dialogue within the framework of the Partnership, will make every effort necessary for the development of the regional cooperation.

    Expectations

    To conclude my speech I'd like to add that the countries of the Caucasus have their own specifics, and their own dynamics. NATO does not have the solution to all the problems here, or elsewhere. But policies of cooperation will strengthen security for all of us. We have a unique chance to turn South Caucasus into a region of cooperation and stability, in which every country has its say, and none considers itself threatened.

    Partnership and cooperation have already accomplished a great deal, bringing direct benefits to citizens of NATO Member and Partner states. In fact, from a system of security for the member of the alliance, NATO is turning into a system of protection of a zone of common values. Building on its achievements and tackling future challenges will be the key to the further success of Partnership.

    I am convinced that this meeting in "Cercul Militar National" Palace will make a considerable contribution to our cooperation on the grounds of openness, accountability and mutual advantage.
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