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Ambassador Speeches

US Ambassador’s remarks at the NATO 60th Anniversary Conference

April 9, 2009

Deputy Minister Azimov,

Ambassador Ureche.

Friends and colleagues.  

I congratulate my Romanian friends for organizing today's event.    And I would like to thank you for inviting me to join you in marking the first 60 years of the NATO Alliance.

Born from the ashes of Europe following World War II, NATO has evolved into the most formidable alliance in history, an alliance that has changed with the times, adapting to meet new threats, facing new challenges.

What began with 12 nations signing the Washington Treaty 60 years ago this week still had just 16 members when the Berlin Wall fell 20 years ago.  The NATO of the Cold War was single-minded.  It focused on checking the Soviet Union.  For most of its history, NATO did just that, without ever performing a military mission.

Today, 28 nations are joined in the alliance.  And partners -- partners like Azerbaijan, which agreed to its Individual Partnership Action Plan 15 years ago, one of thefirst countries to do so  -- literally stretch around the globe.  From Bosnia and Kosovo to our great challenge today in Afghanistan, NATO and its partners do the work that needs to be done.

The old NATO -- the Cold War NATO -- is gone, part of history.  Today's NATO faces new threats: terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, bio-threats, all threats that require international cooperation and common will.  September 11 drove home the lesson that problems festering in a remote corner of the world can -- and do -- threaten us all.  Nations cannot live in isolation in the 21st century; they must face dangers through international cooperation and common will.

President Obama came to Europe last week to renew our NATO partnership, to issue a new call for forging common solutions to our common problems.

For we are here today to recall that NATO is far more than a defensive alliance.  It is an alliance in defense of common values, democratic values.  In the complex international environment in which we live today, it is the principles and values that underpin the alliance's structure that make NATO truly relevant and strong.

NATO members share core values.  Despite our different cultures, different realities and different policies, members of the NATO family share certain values that bind us together.
As President Obama put it, we share the aspirations of free people around the world: a longing to live life free from fear, free from want.  We seek a life marked by dignity and respect and simple justice.  These are the dreams, the values, of democratic peoples.  And they are values worth fighting for.

Whether intervening in the Balkans to stop ethnic cleansing or building schools for millions of Afghan girls who were never before able to attend school, NATO pursued for its values.   And the world is a better place because of it.

NATO policy towards membership in the alliance is clear:  nations that share these values, that fulfill the obligations of membership and contribute to the collective security are welcome.  If they decide they want to join, the door is open.

NATO, today, is proud to count Azerbaijan as a partner.  Azerbaijan's contributions to security missions -- from Kosovo to Iraq and Afghanistan, have been steadfast and professional. 

Azerbaijan's strategic decision to pursue integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions may be the most significant in its history as an independent state.  Clearly, Azerbaijan's ties to NATO enhance security, strengthen democratic values and support the processes of political and military modernization and reform.

Euro-Atlantic integration encompasses a variety of principles.  The most important of these is that democratic government protects not only the territory of the state but also the personal freedom of every citizen.  That is the shared belief, the common value, of our alliance.

Through its NATO Individual Partnership Action Plan, Azerbaijan has taken on commitments to modernize its armed forces and national security structures.  These reforms will enable Azerbaijan's forces to integrate themselves into the operational side of NATO.  They will enable them to play the constructive role, responsive to civilian political direction, that these structures play in established democratic states.  A prime example of Azerbaijan's progress in this area is the elaboration of the National Security Concept and the government's work on its military doctrine.

As I have said before, it is important that civil society -- concerned citizens -- play an active role in debating these doctrines and their role in Azerbaijan's future.  Security policy belongs not just to the specialists,  those in uniform, but to the society.
As Azerbaijan charts its sovereign future, you may be sure that the United States and your other NATO partners will support you.

I would like to wish all conference participants success in their work.

Thank you for your attention.