By Russell Bruce
‘Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves’ Abraham Lincoln – quoted on NATO’s website.
NATO doesn’t plan to retire or stop welcoming new members it seems. George Robertson, whose recent speech in America has been heavily criticised for it’s less that moderate tone on Scottish Independence, was Secretary General of NATO from 14th October 1999 to 5th January 2004.
During this period the geopolitical landscape of Europe underwent significant change as a continuation of the events following the fall of the Berlin wall ten years earlier.
In the months just before and after George Robertson’s five-year tenure many newly independent European states joined NATO. The organisation is celebrating the accession of these states today by publishing quotations from the leaders of these countries at the time.
CZECH REPUBLIC ‘It gives us hope that our country will never succumb, nor will it be sacrificed to any aggressor, and at the same time expresses a clear resolve to be jointly responsible for freedom of nations, human rights, democratic values and peace on our continent.’ Václav Havel, President of the Czech Republic, 12 March 1999
HUNGARY ‘Today is an historic day. Today Hungary takes its place among the members of the North Atlantic Alliance. A long process has been completed: our country has once and for all become part of the safe and secure world.’ Viktor Orbán, Hungarian Prime Minister, 12 March 1999
POLAND ‘This is a great day for Poland, as well as for millions of Poles scattered all over the world. Poland forever returns to where she has always belonged – the free world. Poland is no longer alone in the defence of her freedom. We are in NATO ‘for your freedom and ours’. Bronislaw Geremek, Polish Foreign Minister, 12 March 1999
SLOVAKIA ‘Bigger influence and bigger responsibility on the international scene. By joining NATO, the Slovak Republic became part of an organisation in which it can as an equal partner discuss and jointly decide with Allies about any issues influencing vital interests of its members, including developments potentially leading to threatening their security’. Milan Kňažko, Slovak politician and actor, 29 March 2004
BULGARIA ‘We met the dawn with the king and in NATO’ Bulgarian newspaper 24 Hours, 29 March 2004 (1)
ESTONIA ‘Estonia received the strongest defence guarantee in its history from NATO’ Delfi newspaper, Estonia, 30 March 2004
LATVIA ‘Now another step has been taken for our independence and it makes the freedom we fought for irreversible.’ Indulis Emsis, Prime Minister of Latvia.
LITHUANIA ‘Step by step towards full NATO membership’ Delfi newspaper, Lithuania, 29 March 2004
ROMANIA ‘For the first time, our country’s security is effectively guaranteed. The largest political and military organisation of all time has become a guarantor of Romania’s integrity and sovereignty.
CROATIA ‘NATO is not only a military alliance, but also an alliance which protects democratic values and therefore becoming a member of this alliance confirmed that Croatia has adopted and defends high democratic standards’. Stjepan Mesić, President of Croatia
SLOVENIA ‘Slovenia was well aware of its responsibility and was ready to be a reliable partner to other members of NATO alliance. Monday had been a historical day, which for Slovenia meant a higher level of security. Simultaneously with the handing over of the accession documents, NATO began to ensure the protection of Slovenian air space, thus providing Slovenia with a guaranteed protection against attacks and threats’. Slovenian Prime Minister, Anton Rop
ALBANIA ‘Albania’s membership of NATO represents the most outstanding accomplishment of all the efforts of our country to obtain the place it deserves amidst the presence of civilized nations.’ Sali Berisha, Prime Minister of Albania, 7 April 2009
George Robertson has defended his recent outburst when he warned a Yes vote in September would be “cataclysmic” for the West and that if independence ever came to pass “the forces of darkness would simply love it”.
Lord Robertson is a seasoned politician. In his NATO role he must surely have understood the need for careful language and assiduous diplomacy. As a senior figure within the British political establishment he is entitled to his view that Britain is stronger in defence terms as a political unity. However he has undermined his reputation by such emotive language on the campaign trail. He has moved far from his youth as a campaigner against Polaris on the Clyde.
The reality that Scotland is poorly defended within the present Union is the real issue. Scotland has the longest and geographically most complex coastline in Northern Europe. The cold war may be over but the North Atlantic remains strategically important to Europe’s security.
Scotland has no air reconnaissance cover. The largest maritime vessels in Scottish waters are the Scottish Government’s fishery protection vessels. It takes the Royal Navy 24 hours to reach the Moray Firth from the South of England to see what Putin’s navy is doing in inshore Scottish waters. The UK Government learned of the Russian Navy’s intentions apparently by monitoring social media.
The Royal Navy has not had the capacity to provide a frigate to NATO exercises in the North Atlantic since 2008.
The Scottish Government’s defence strategy envisages a return of air reconnaissance. Four frigates based in Scotland to patrol and defend the security of our exposed North Atlantic position. As the UK only has four frigates currently, we will have to build them – on the Clyde. It is easy to understand why such a strategy would enhance Scotland’s security and that of partner North European nations in these strategically important waters. Our immediate southern neighbour would also be better defended.
Perhaps last word, well almost, to Lord Robertson from a Video released by NATO
‘So when I came to NATO headquarters in October of 1999 I said my three priorities were capabilities, capabilities, capabilities. Well, if I was arriving now, and somebody will be by the end of the year, it’s exactly the same.’
Sounds reasonable George. Scotland wants to build those important capabilities it currently lacks.
Happy birthday NATO from Scotland
1. The strange reference to meeting with the ‘king’ in the Bulgarian quote is explained by the fact that although the Bulgarian monarchy was abolished in 1946, the last king, Simeon II served as the 47th Bulgarian Prime Minister from 24th July 2001 to 17th August 2005.