Ambassador Kyle Scott speech at Fifth Belgrade NATO Week

Welcome, greetings.

As we kick off discussions today, let me thank Jelena and the Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies for keeping a focus on NATO here in this region. 

With all the rhetoric we hear in this country, I thought it might be useful to start my own remarks by getting back to basics for a moment.  What is NATO after all? 

So if you’ll allow me, I’d like to take us back in history for just a moment – back to the Washington Treaty, signed in 1949, which is the founding document of NATO. 

Probably few people in this audience have read it.  It’s not very long – just barely over two pages.  (Compare that to the Treaty of Rome, which weighs in at 80 pages long.) 

And the essence of those three pages is packed into one, simple, preamble paragraph: 

The Parties to this Treaty reaffirm their faith in the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and their desire to live in peace with all peoples and all governments. They are determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. They seek to promote stability and well-being in the North Atlantic area. They are resolved to unite their efforts for collective defense and for the preservation of peace and security. They, therefore, agree to this North Atlantic Treaty . . .

So, what does this Preamble tell us? It starts off by placing this new body, this new collection of states, squarely within the UN system. The founding states of NATO committed themselves to the ideal of the peaceful resolution of disputes, to coordinate their efforts with the broader UN system. So, what’s the first theme? Peace through the UN.

Second, the Preamble makes clear that NATO should protect common values that all the founding states agreed upon: Freedom, democracy, individual liberty, rule of law. These values form the core of the Alliance. They are not exclusively the values of NATO member states, but all NATO member states are expected to adhere to these values.

Only after mentioning peace, the UN, and common values does the Preamble finally get around to mentioning the collective defense role that the Alliance is prepared to play to preserve and protect these first principles.

Getting past the preamble, the main body of the text has fourteen simple articles. As you read through these articles, you can see the same themes repeated and elaborated on:

These first four articles talk about peaceful resolution of disputes, refraining from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the UN. They commit members to peaceful relations among states, to free institutions, to stability, well-being, and economic collaboration. And they commit member states to consultations if any one of them feels threatened.

And then, only in Article 5 -- perhaps the one element of the Treaty most people are familiar with -- do the member states commit to collective defense. Even here, however, the exercise of the right of self-defense is placed in the context of Article 51 of the UN Charter, and member states commit to coordinating their actions with the UN Security Council. Later articles again emphasize the primary role the UN Security Council plays in maintaining international peace and security.

Finally, I should mention Article 10 of the Treaty, which provides for the expansion of the Alliance to include “any other European state in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area.” No one has NATO forced upon them, and a country must seek and be granted that membership. The door is open, but it is not obligatory.

So, how does this relate to Serbia, which as we know is not seeking membership in NATO? Well, interestingly enough, the Washington Treaty does not spell out the concept of partnerships. This was developed after the end of the Cold War when NATO realized that it needed a mechanism that allowed it to foster closer relationships with neighboring countries that were either not ready for or not interested in actual membership. Thus Partnership for Peace was born.

NATO imposes no binary choices on partner countries, including Serbia. It respects Serbia’s neutrality. Serbia has joined the Partnership because it benefits enormously from it. Serbia shapes the nature of that partnership: its Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP), for example, states in the very first paragraph that “This partnership will contribute to achieving the strategic aims of ensuring security and long-lasting stabilization of the Western Balkans and the process of European integration.”

Serbia included in the document its commitment to regional cooperation and improved bilateral relations with its neighbors; to economic reform; and to respect for human rights and the rule of law. Some of Serbia’s specific IPAP goals include:

- Promotion of multi-cultural dialogue, tolerance, and anti-discrimination, improvement of the status of socially vulnerable groups, widening of education in the field of human rights and the protection of minorities.

- Improve the independence, transparency, accountability, and efficiency of the judiciary.

- Implementation of a new Anti-Corruption Strategy and its accompanying Action Plan

- Preservation and strengthening of regional stability through contribution to the work of regional security organizations and initiatives

The IPAP is a plan agreed between NATO and Serbia that represents a joint program of work that both sides commit to, but it is clear that it is crafted in such a way to support Serbia’s strategic goal: joining the European Union.

Of course, on a day-to-day basis, most of the content of Serbia’s work with NATO is focused on specific elements of security and military cooperation. Here too, I would argue, the benefits to Serbia of cooperation with NATO for more than 10 years are undeniable. They include:

  • More than 100 engagements and events every year. Just this week, President Vucic was in NATO HQ to discuss cooperation, and tomorrow will culminate a three-day joint exercise between Serbian and American airborne soldiers. Through these engagements, Serbia is transforming its military along structural and training lines that are compatible with forces for EU and international peacekeeping operations. In fact, Serbia is a regional leader in contributions to EU and UN peacekeeping missions around the world.
  • In addition, NATO trust fund projects have contributed millions of dollars to Serbian efforts to reduce unsafe ammunition stockpiles held by your military, and also helped find employment for over 5,000 former soldiers.
  • Serbia has also taken advantage of NATO’s disaster response capabilities to get more than a million dollars’ worth of humanitarian assistance to help with the migrant crisis, and take part in disaster response exercises with hundreds of first-responders from the region.
  • Serbia is also developing strategic relationships with top universities and research institutions in NATO countries through the Science for Peace and Security program.
  • And of course, NATO forces in Kosovo are the primary protectors of the Serbian population in that country.

With all of that in mind, I’m looking forward to hearing what my colleagues and friends here have to say about Serbia and NATO. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on how Serbia’s relationship with Euro-Atlantic institutions will evolve as Serbia continues on its path towards the EU. What impact will agreement on PESCO have on candidate countries such as Serbia. And I think we’d all like to know what more NATO can do in cooperation with Serbia to help maintain peace and stability in the Balkans and in the broader European community.

Thank you, and I look forward to the discussions.