NATO before the Warsaw Summit: Challenges and Perspectives for SEE

Ambassador Baily’s Remarks for the Euro-Atlantic Council of Macedonia’s Press Conference for the NATO Day

April 4, 2016

Good morning, and thank you.  Minister Jolevski, Ambassadors Solendil and Multanowski, Captain Radev, Mr. Ramadani, members of the Euro-Atlantic Council, ladies and gentlemen.

It is a pleasure to be here at the Euro-Atlantic Council of Macedonia’s conference on future NATO challenges and perspectives.  This is an important topic at any time, but especially now, in the face of new challenges to transatlantic security, along the Alliance’s eastern and southern borders, in new domains such as cyber, and from non-state actors.  Today, I’d like to briefly address how the United States sees these issues as Allies prepare for the Warsaw Summit in July.  And I will also discuss Macedonia’s membership in the Alliance.  The United States supports your membership.  It is an unfinished item in our decades-long effort with allies and partners to build a Europe whole, free and at peace.

NATO is the transatlantic core of the global security community, and it embodies the conviction that North America and Europe are inextricably bound together.  In the years since NATO’s formation in 1949, it has become clear that the security that comes from military cooperation and collective defense also fosters a broader kind of success – it encourages democratization and spurs nations’ economic and political progress as well.  No part of the world has been more prosperous, stable, and peaceful over the last 67 years than the countries that belong to NATO.

NATO’s stabilizing influence helped Europe emerge from the darkness of the Second World War, strengthened bonds among the Allies throughout the Cold War years, and welcomed new members and expanded partnerships to 40 nations in the last two decades.  And it has risen to face new challenges, including terrorism, cyber and hybrid warfare, piracy, and asymmetric conflicts around its periphery whose impact includes large flows of refugees.

NATO’s commitment to common defense and deterrence is more relevant and significant than ever.  As we speak, NATO vessels are helping Turkey and Greece patrol the Aegean, to rescue migrants and prevent human smuggling across dangerous seas.  NATO is providing capabilities to support Turkey if its borders are violated.  To the East, through the Operation Atlantic Resolve, the United States is demonstrating our commitment to collective security in light of Russian intervention in Ukraine, by augmenting training, exercises, and presence in the region.  And to support these efforts and those of our partners, the United States earlier this year requested from Congress $3.4 billion dollars, a four-fold increase from last year.

Strengthening and modernizing NATO’s defense and deterrence posture will be at the heart of the Warsaw Summit in less than 100 days.  Allies will also assess the long-term implications of the crisis on NATO’s relations with Russia and consider the next steps.  We will review the progress we have made on defense spending and decide on the right balance between a forward presence in the east and our ability to reinforce.   In addition to discussing on-going operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo, Allies will address the crises to the south and the support we provide to our partners.   We will recognize our partners’ commitments and reaffirm our own commitment to offer the training and other support that will help our partners with reform and modernization.

Of course, NATO’s “open door” policy will be on the agenda.  Allies are also expected to extend an invitation to Montenegro, something which your government and many people in Macedonia have welcomed as positive step for the region.   But such support usually comes with a question – when will Macedonia receive its invitation?  The United States has strongly supported Macedonia in its path towards membership; we are also frustrated that process has not been faster.  So allow me to share my perspective on the path forward.  It involves three areas, where you can act and we can help.

First, at their December 2015 meeting NATO foreign ministers reaffirmed the 2008 Bucharest Summit decision on an invitation to Macedonia, and urged Macedonia and Greece to find a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue.  The good news is Macedonia and Greece are stepping up contacts.  These include visits by Foreign Minister Kotzias to Skopje  and Foreign Minister Poposki to Athens, along with the increased interactions between your two countries in government, education, business, and civil society.  The migrant crisis has demonstrated the strategic need for more cooperation.   So there is momentum.  There is no better time than now to untie that knot called the name issue.  The United States, the United Nations and other friends are ready assist your and Greece’s efforts.

Second, invest in modernization of your armed forces and participate in NATO and related operations, training, and exercises.  The good news is Macedonia is doing just this.  It has been a steadfast ally in international peace support operations for more than a decade, contributing over 3,000 troops to operations in Afghanistan since 2003, as well as to other operations.  Right now, 39 Macedonian soldiers are deployed to the NATO Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan where they provide security and support a training mission to Afghan National Security Forces.  Right now, your special operations forces are participating in Exercise Saber Junction in Germany.  In June, 150 Macedonian troops will participate in Exercise Anaconda this June.  These are two of the several exercises in which Macedonian forces will improve their readiness and demonstrate their capabilities over the next several months.  The Government of Macedonia and the Ministry of Defense are also taking important steps toward modernizing your military and making it more NATO-interoperable.    This includes a 10-year investment plan to achieve your objectives.   We remain committed to helping you along the way through bilateral assistance.

Finally, remember that NATO is more than the sum of our combined military capabilities.  NATO is a family joined by shared values and a desire to protect our values as much as our territory and our people. The North Atlantic Charter underscores the principles of democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law.  Aspirants need to meet NATO’s high standards for membership in this regard.  As Secretary General Stolenberg has emphasized to your leaders, it is vital that they live up to their commitments in the Przino agreement – to enact and implement the reforms needed for elections, for accountability and the rule of law, and for democratic freedoms.   Credible elections on June 5, the work of the Special Prosecutor, reforms in media and in other areas – together they send a strategic message to future NATO Allies of your commitment to the values in the North Atlantic Charter.  Half measures, however, send the opposite message and erode support.

So these three areas – relations with Greece, military capabilities, and the democracy and rule of law – offer opportunities amidst the challenges.  Seize these opportunities.

To conclude, on this 67th anniversary of NATO’s founding, we remember that NATO has safeguarded the freedom and security of its members, promoted democratic values, and helped ensure regional stability for the benefit of members and non-members alike.  Over the last years, our world has become more dangerous, and more unpredictable.  But NATO is adapting to keep our nations safe.  In 2016, and in the years ahead, NATO will remain an anchor of stability: staying strong, open for dialogue, and working with our partners around the world.

Macedonia is a contributor to regional and global security.  We look forward to your continuing partnership with NATO and to one day welcoming you as a full member of the Alliance.

Thank you.