Hagel Emphasizes NATO’s Importance to World Security
By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 1, 2014 On a night in which the Atlantic Council honored Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the secretary called NATO an anchor of security for the world.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel receives the Atlantic Council's 2014 Distinguished International Leadership Award from Brent Scowcroft, chairman of the Atlantic Council International Advisory Board, during an awards ceremony and dinner at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Washington, April 30, 2014. DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
After receiving the council’s Distinguished International Leadership Award here last night, Hagel said he's been privileged and fortunate to have lived at such a spectacular time in world history. While this time is not without its problems and new threats emerge daily, he said, the transatlantic alliance embodied by NATO has served as a bulwark for peace and security.
"I know of no anchor of security more important to keeping peace in the world since World War II than NATO," Hagel said.
NATO has been instrumental to averting problems like those that occurred in the first 50 years of the 20th century, the defense secretary said. "Problems? Yes. Still humanitarian disasters? Yes. Conflicts? Yes. But overall, it's been a pretty successful last 60 years because of this alliance."
And though all of the world's problems haven't yet been solved, he said, the nations of the world have built platforms, abilities and alliances to work together in common purpose to address these challenges together.
"And that, fundamentally, was the point of NATO: knitting together a strong transatlantic alliance after World War II," Hagel said.
Today's accelerated rate of change and shift is unprecedented in the history of man, the defense secretary noted. But, he said, the rapid pace of change demonstrates that the groundwork laid more than 60 years ago is paying dividends.
"Wasn't that the point behind all of this effort that our great leaders came to and agreed upon after World War II -- to, in fact, give people of the world opportunities, freedom? That is directly connected to security and continuity and stability," Hagel said.
And while that hard work is paying off, he said, it also brings new complications.
"Therein,” he said, “lies the essence of alliances -- alliances of common purpose. … We probably won't always agree on issues, but on the end result and the purpose of an alliance, the purpose of [governance], the purpose of organized society remains the same."
After World War II, the great leaders of the era came together to form a lasting alliance because the world had had enough war, Hagel noted. But after extended periods of conflict, nations tend to look inward, he cautioned, and now the world runs the risk of again becoming captive to that kind of inward thinking, the defense secretary said.
"I don't think we're there," he said, "but it's going to require continued focused strong, steady, wise [and] engaged leadership with the world, with each other. … This is not a time to retreat. This is not a time to pull back."
NATO and organizations like it allow nations to engage peacefully with each other, even when the world remains dangerous, Hagel said.
"If there was ever a time in history where we have the tools, where we have the capacity, where we have the institutions to engage and fix the problems, it is now," the defense secretary said.
(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @rouloafps)